Te Ipukarea Society (TIS) has welcomed the recent news on Maori and Pacific Leaders proposing legal personhood of whales in international waters to the United Nations.
A Newsroom.co.nz article published late last month said
Māori leaders, including the Māori King, together with other leaders from
throughout the Pacific have supported a resolution for the adoption of the
whale as ocean ambassador to the United Nations.
And they are seeking support for a global agreement
on protecting the legal personhood of whales in international waters.
Cook Islands environmental group TIS technical director
Kelvin Passfield says: “We are always happy with any initiative that provides
greater protection for our Moana nui o kiva, our ocean.”
Passfield said: “Our Ocean is under increasing
threats in recent times, in particular from climate change and the push to
start deep seabed mining, both of which could cause irreversible harm to our
ocean. Providing a voice for the whales, by granting them legal
"personhood", can only help us in our campaign for a healthy ocean.”
Whilst the proposal was
welcomed by TIS, Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) says they do
not have any view at this time.
MMR’s secretary Pamela Maru was
asked if Cook Islands / MMR was looking to join this proposal or their views on
the proposal, she said: “The Ministry of Marine Resources has not been involved
in the story you referred to, as such have no view on the proposal at this
National Environment Service
director Halatoa Fua said from an NES perspective, the Cook Islands is home to
the largest multipurpose Marine Park – known as our Marae Moana.
“Whales are a migratory
species, and from September to October you will see them passing through our
Cook Islands waters.”
He added: “NES encourages our
people to be environmental stewards, and by protecting our Marae Moana, we are
providing a safe passage for whales to pass through.”
According to Newsroom, the resolution was proposed to
the UN by Dr Ralph Chami of Blue Green Future, who with blue carbon
expert, Dr Carlos Duarte, is one of the lead technicians working with
Indigenous founders of the Hinemoana Halo Ocean Initiative.
“For the first time, our tribes
have formed a collective to work to implement indigenous customary protections
across whale migration routes between critical feeding and breeding grounds,”
said Lisa Tumahai of Ngāi Tahu.
Legal personhood – which
has parallels with corporations and trusts – was first enacted to protect
the environment in Bolivia and has also been used as a mechanism to
protect the Whanganui River and the Urewera.
Tumahai is co-chair of the
Hinemoana Halo Ocean (H20) Fund which was set up to raise a $100
million blue bond for Indigenous-led blue habitat restoration
and rewilding projects as part of a large-scale plan to recover and
protect whale populations across the Pacific Rim.
The fund is a joint
Conservation International Aotearoa initiative with seven Indigenous partners
from New Zealand, Tonga, French Polynesia, and also the Cook Islands.
“Dr Chami’s work with our
Indigenous tribes in Aotearoa and the Pacific adds to the growing scientific
acknowledgement of the role that our relations, the Tohorā (whales), play in
addressing the twin challenges of climate change and ocean biodiversity loss,”
said Mere Takoko, Vice President of Conservation International Aotearoa.
representatives pledged to work together to create the world’s largest
Indigenous marine protected area network over a 2,200,000 km2 area.
The network will come under a
customary protection framework that intends to put more investment into whale
conservation and introduce seasonal protections across whale migratory routes
or “blue” corridors. The full plan will be released at the 2024 UN Ocean’s
Decade Conference in Barcelona, Spain.