Dr Lara Manarangi-Trott with Ministry of Marine Resources Secretary Pamela Maru (left), Feleti P. Teo, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann, MMR Fisheries Officer Tiare-Renee Nicholas. 22121409
Cook Islander Dr Lara Manarangi-Trott has dedicated her career to fisheries and holds one of the top jobs at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). She talks to Cook Islands News journalist Caleb Fotheringham at the recently concluded Commission summit in Vietnam.
Dr Lara Manarangi-Trott’s résumé from an early age is impressive. She became dux of both her primary school at Avatea
and Tereora College, was awarded a university scholarship from the Australian
Government and achieved a Bachelor of Science with first degree honours at the
University of New South Wales. She also holds a PhD from the University of
Wollongong in science, international law and policy, and continued her
education throughout her career at Harvard and Oxford.
Manarangi-Trott says it’s a
fair statement that she has always been ambitious when the question is put to
her by Cook Islands News.
“It means a lot to me to do
well. It means even more to me to be doing well and assisting others,” she
says, at the hotel lobby in Vietnam where the Commission’s 19th Regular Session
The WCPFC is the governing
body that looks after the tuna stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean
and the Cook Islands is one of its 26 member countries.
Between starting her PhD and
completing her undergraduate degree, Manarangi-Trott worked for Cook Islands
Ministry of Marine Resources. It was there when she was exposed to tuna
fisheries management at a Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency meeting held in
Manarangi-Trott says it was
her job to “make sandwiches and hand out cups of coffee because that’s what
ladies do”, but she still managed to get her hands on copies of papers and talk
to people at the conference.
While there she saw the need
for someone to be in fisheries management who understood both science and
policy. It encouraged her to pursue a PhD.
“Out of high school, I was
really interested in science and working in a lab,” Manarangi-Trott says.
“When I got back to the Cook
Islands, after having done my study, I realised that the scientific work that I
thought that I wanted to do wasn’t what the Cook Islands needed.
“I really wanted to do
something that was going to go on to mean something to the Cook Islands and
mean something to the Pacific.”
While studying for her PhD,
Manarangi-Trott became involved with the WCPFC, funding trips to the annual
meetings off her own dime, often picking up extra waitressing jobs to afford
She ended up getting a job
as an adviser on WCPFC with the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency in 2006
where she stayed for six years in the Solomon Islands and later joined the
Commission, where she still works as the compliance manager.
During this year’s Regular Session
of the WCPFC, Manarangi-Trott unsuccessfully applied to be the Commission’s
Her candidacy had Cook
Islands Government’s full support.
Prime Minister Mark Brown
wrote a letter to the member states and participating territories that make up
the WCPFC backing her application.
am confident that Dr Manarangi-Trott’s long-standing commitment to managing
regional fisheries demonstrates her dedication to building upon her already
exemplary service to the WCPFC and its membership,” the Prime Minister wrote in
Cook Islands has full trust that as Executive Director, she will lead the
organisation in achieving even further success”.
lost the job to Rhea Moss-Christian from the Marshall Islands who became the
Commission’s first female executive director.
wasn’t the outcome that I wanted and I’m still probably processing exactly how
I feel about it,” Manarangi-Trott says.
is disappointment, because of the platform that I actually ran on, which was
that I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am and I think I’ve proven that
I can be a very good senior member of the Secretariat. I believed that I had everything
that was needed to be able to be the next Executive Director.”
says the Commission’s role is to be a servant to the member countries and
participating territories and support them in making consensus decisions.
really felt and feel that I’ve demonstrated the ability to do that consistently
over an 11-year period.
spent 12 months last year, completing my postgraduate diploma from Oxford
University on organisational leadership and that was something I did part-time
during Covid, online, and that was a way of me preparing myself.”
says the most challenging thing about the job process was applying and
preparing herself for the role on top of the job she was already doing.
says she had been given support and encouragement throughout her career by
colleagues in the Cook Islands and family, particularly in her current role as
the WCPFC compliance manager.
also want to give thanks to all staff at WCPFC for their dedication and hard
work, Meitaki Maata,” Manarangi-Trott says.
person who got the role, Moss-Christian, told Cook Islands News, Manarangi-Trott
has made a lot of impact with her time working at the Commission.
“It’s been an
incredible, immense contribution,” Moss-Christian says, “not just in the
compliance space where she’s mainly been working but just strengthening the
foundation of this Commission in terms of the information that’s come
with a lot of technical issues and detailed information and managing the
Commission’s monitoring programmes. These aren’t easy things to do.”