For the first time since the 1980s Cook Islanders will be taking part in deep sea research activity in our own exclusive economic zone waters.
On chartered local vessel MC Grinna II will be Eusenio Fatialofa, an engineer from Cook Islands Investment Corporation, and Rima Browne, an officer at the Seabed Minerals Authority, who have both been on deep sea expeditions before.
They will be joined by Junior Tapoki from the National Environment Service’s monitoring and compliance Division, and Chloe Wragg, a fisheries officer and data analyst with Marine Resources.
The marine scientific research survey will be carried out within the Cook Islands economic zone, north-west of Aitutaki, under a research permit approved by the Cook Islands National Research Committee in February.
This is the first survey of our deep sea since a 1985-2005 scientific survey where the Cook Islands waters were included and surveyed as part of deep seabed exploration project across the South Pacific region.
The survey will further marine scientific research objectives on deep sea and nodule resource in the Cook Islands’ Exclusive Economic Zone, Paul Lynch, Seabed Minerals Commissioner, says.
“Future exploration will include a full range of scientific exploration including collection and analysis of deep sea biological and ecological data.
“This will also then provide further experience and capacity building opportunities for Cook Islanders in this new national sector from both the public sector and civil society in the future,” Lynch said.
The expedition follows a 2016 joint venture agreement between Cook Islands Investment Corporation and Global Sea Mineral Resources, a Belgian company.
The agreement allows the Cook Islands to investigate the possibility of how it may sustainably develop its natural seabed resources.
It’s the first to be conducted in our waters by a locally registered joint venture company, named Cook Islands Investment Corporation Seabed Resources.
The purpose of the new expedition is to explore the “nodule characterisation” within a small area of Cook Islands waters .
The aim is to collect and examine small samples of polymetallic nodules for composition and geochemical analyses using low impact collection equipment.
The survey is using the local vessel MV Grinna II, a former research vessel from Norway, newly-acquired and now operated by Taio Shipping.
The nodule sample collection equipment was built locally by Rarotonga Welding to enable the uplifting of nodule samples of approximately 100kg from the seabed.
Lynch said the research was in line with Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Goals and Millennium Development Goals and all domestic and international laws and obligations, including the Environment Act, Marae Moana Act and Seabed Minerals Act.
Last Monday, members of the Marae Moana Technical Working Group – including representatives of the Marae Moana Marine Park, Environment Service, relevant Government offices, NGOs and traditional leaders – were given a detailed presentation on the research.