Pacific Islands Conservation Initiative
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Quick Facts
Size 1.997 Sq Km Location Central South Pacific Nation Cook Islands
What is protected All shark and ray species How is it established By regulations under the Marine Resources Act Date declared 12 Dec 2012


The Cook Islands declared their waters a shark sanctuary on December 12, 2012.

This comes after more than 18 months of public awareness and community consultations by the Pacific Islands Conservation Initiative.

The shark sanctuary is established by regulations under the Marine Resources Act (2005).

Regulations drafting thanks to Michael Balster, an environmental attorney with Paul Hastings LLP.

These are the strongest possible measures under the Act and will work as a deterrent as well as enforcement mechanism. Fines are a minimum of $100,000.00NZD and a maximum of $250,000.00NZD per offence. Both Masters and Owners are jointly liable.

As a result of these regulations community and commercial fishermen have realised the importance of reporting their shark catches accurately for research purposes. Although sharks will no longer be brought on board any vessel, information such as size estimate, species, condition and location will be recorded.

Getting the job done

PICI has had significant support from many people all around the globe in getting this shark sanctuary established. We would like to thank first and foremost the people of the Cook Islands who have accepted this and made this a reality. It is a true bipartisan effort with support from all political parties.

Thanks to Teina Bishop, Minister of Marine Resources for listening to the arguments from all sides regarding sharks, and making an informed and balanced decision.

Thanks to our local ambassadors who have stood beside us and represented the cause to the community. Travel Tou Ariki, Pa Teuruaa, Danny Mataroa, Tua Pittman, Teuira Napa, Kate Ngatokorua, Alex Olah, Marion Marsters and Matiu John.

Thanks to the businesses that supported our initial effort by providing us the means for our first media campaign; CITC, Bergman and Sons, Air New Zealand, Pa's Treks, Pacific Divers, Cook Islands News, Pacific Resort Hotel Group, Cafe Salsa, Cook Islands Tourism and Cook Islands Marine.

Thanks to the PEW Environment Group for recognizing the progress of our campaign and joining us over the past 9 months. The support of PEW has allowed our campaign to reach all communities in the Cook Islands.


Along the way we have met some amazing individuals, including Senator Tony DeBrum, Stefanie Brendl, Dr Shelly Clarke, Lelei Peau, Lelei Lelaulu, Chuck Fox and of course Madam Secretary Hillary Clinton. These people are avid environmental advocates and all in their own way, are adding to the sensible management and protection of our Marine Resources.

Jump to our campaign story

Hillary Clinton Jess Cramp Cook Islands

What is The Honorable Hillary Clinton doing?

Jess Cramp, programme manager for PICI, thought of a great way of showing support for the protection of sharks in the Cook Islands. 'We use a hand on top of our head like a fin, to signal 'shark' when we scuba dive' says Jess, who has been encouraging kids throughout the Cook Islands to use the same signal to support our efforts.

At the Pacific Islands Forum, Jess had an impromptu encounter with U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and talked briefly about her work. Madam Secretary Clinton was very engaging and showed a genuine interest in the conservation efforts of Jess and the organisation she represents, the Pacific Islands Conservation Initiative.

This personal interest confirms her commitment to the statement made by the U.S. Secretary of State to the Pacific Leaders in areas of environment and fisheries management.

By all accounts it looks like the Honorable Hillary Clinton enjoyed her time in the Cook Islands. She seemed very relaxed, approachable and sincere. Her staff were very pleasant and the security detail, while present, was not at all over stated. Thanks for your visit and support Madam Secretary!

Our campaign story...

See a collection of local articles published in Cook Islands News relevant to the campaign.

Page written and updated by Stephen Lyon, 14 December 2012

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