68.html> Marine park 'the size of the Moon' takes shape in Pacific
An ambitious plan to link marine parks across a vast swathe of ocean - whose
surface area would equal that of the Moon - is slowly coming together piece
by piece, say conservationists.
Former international rugby league player turned environmentalist Kevin Iro
is a driving force behind the part of the park that will encompass the Cook
Islands - a nation whose combined landmass is barely bigger than Washington
"When I was a kid, this was all alive," said Iro, grimacing as he scooped up
a lump of dead, grey coral while walking the white sands of a Cook Island
beach in the Pacific.
"There were tracks in the coral and if you walked off them you could hear
the coral crunching. Now there's no coral here, basically."
The Cooks' Prime Minister Henry Puna formally unveiled the 1.065 million
square kilometre (411,000 square mile) reserve when he hosted the Pacific
Islands Forum last month, vowing to protect the ocean for future
Puna said the commitment by the tiny nation of 15 islands was its major
contribution "to the well-being of not only our peoples, but also of
Peter Seligmann, co-founder of green group Conservation International (CI),
said the establishment of such a large marine park was a courageous move for
the Cooks and placed the Pacific at the forefront of ocean conservation.
But to Seligmann the Cook Islands park, while welcome, is just a single
piece of the jigsaw.
The American is working with Pacific island states to create a network of
similar parks across the region to ensure one of the world's last pristine
ocean ecosystems is managed sustainably.
The scale of the proposed network, dubbed the Pacific Oceanscape, is
unprecedented - a 40 million square kilometre area stretching from the
Marshall Islands in the north almost to New Zealand in the south.
That's about eight per cent of the world's surface area, almost four times
larger than Europe and big enough to fit Australia in five times over. It's
almost exactly the same size as the surface area of the Moon.
"What we are seeing is the largest conservation initiative in history,"
Seligmann told AFP. "Piece by piece, nation by nation, it's coming together.