Ecologically Sustainable Development Projects

Seabed mining

Current Ecologically Sustainable Development Project

Since the 1960’s research vessels have excited the Cook Islands to mine poly-metallic nodules, containing nickel, cobalt, copper and manganese. lying on our seabed. The major challenge for developers is that there is no economically viable method of collecting the nodules because they lie over 4,000m on our deep ocean floor. The Cook Islands public are concerned that this mining has not been tried before and there is insufficient data as to the impacts on the environment and biodiversity. TIS highlighted the issues of Seabed Mining first in the 1990’s with public meetings, and a media awareness campaign.

In the past five years the subject has been revisited by Government as the answer to our economic woes, but TIS has maintained a strong stand In September 2012 TIS presented a motion to the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) urging nations to proceed with caution. The motion was passed by a significant majority of government and NGO members of IUCN.

Green Tourism

Current Ecologically Sustainable Development Project

Tourism is the most successful industry in the Cook Islands with a 6% annual growth rate (2011/2012). TIS has always been supportive of green tourism initiatives, and has implemented projects promoting sustainable practices and training businesses how to green their business operations. Sadly the tourism industry as a whole has implemented few strategies to ensure our infrastructure keeps up with the ever-increasing tourist numbers. With the revamping of a Tourism Accreditation Scheme, there is a renewed focus on environmentally sound practices for all tourism operators. This is viewed as a good first step In 2011, TIS prepared a paper on visitor numbers and the effects on the environment and submitted this to the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, the agency that recommends tourism policies to government. There is yet to be a response from the Tourism Corporation outlining how the industry will support government to address the issues raised in the report. In September 2012 one of our executive members was appointed to the Tourism Accreditation Board.

Offshore Fisheries

Current Ecologically Sustainable Development Project

Te Ipukarea Society has been monitoring government policy on the offshore fisheries industry and the licensing of long line fishing vessels. TIS has concerns over the close relationship between the government fisheries regulatory agency (the Ministry of Marine Resources) and a foreign fishing association and the lack of transparency regarding the terms and conditions of licenses issued. TIS is also concerned with the MMR policy to increase fishing activity when other Pacific Islands countries are adopting more conservation measures and scientists have recommended that fishing effort be reduced for one species. Initially, TIS brought these concerns directly to the attention of the Ministry of Marine Resources but when these concerns were ignored TIS raised the issue in the media. TIS continues to provide feedback on government fisheries policy including the draft offshore fisheries policy and the National Plan of Action on Sharks. TIS also monitors fisheries regulations, despite never being given the opportunity to comment on these regulations before they are passed.

Tourism Environmental Guidelines

Past Ecologically Sustainable Development Project

TIS developed the Interim Waste Management Strategy with tourism properties. This was followed by the Tourism Accreditation Scheme. We also assisted with the development of Environmental Guidelines for Tourism Accredited properties and taught environmental awareness courses at the Hospitality and Tourism Training Centre.