The Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) began consultations late last year following the development of the draft policy for the Cook Islands Whale Sanctuary and guidelines.
The meeting in Aitutaki was to inform the general public along with key stakeholders such as fishermen and tour operators about the draft policy which will provide enforceable effect to the Whale Sanctuary declared in 2001.
The sanctuary covers the entire exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Cook Islands.
New legislation will provide protections for whales living in and migrating through our waters and will regulate human activity that may or may not impact on whales.
“Whales in the Cook Islands are a precious resource. Not only do they contribute to a healthy and diverse ecosystem, but they have been a historical part of our culture and traditions for eons,” MMR said in a statement.
The draft policy will enable regulations to be developed, which will benefit watercraft operators, aircraft operators, fishermen and others which may come into proximity or contact with whales, as they will now have a clear understanding of permissible and prohibited behaviour.
MMR’s director of legal and policy, Mathilda Miria-Tairea headed the consultation in Aitutaki which was held at Ureia Hall.
Miria-Tairea said they would take the public views into the consideration in developing the regulations which will follow.
The draft documents can be found online at: http://1drv.ms/1VVj1xH. - Release