Rarotonga, Cook Islands Tuesday 29th August 2012: Cook Islands Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Tom Marsters today attended the release of the new Regional Legislative and Regulatory Framework for Deep Sea Minerals Exploration and Exploitation at the Pacific Island Leaders Forum currently underway here in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
Marsters reflected that this Framework was called for by Pacific Leaders at their Forum in Cairns in 2009 as one of the key priorities of the Leaders Pacific Plan, during the period 2009 and 2012. In Cairns, Leaders called for the development of regional and national frameworks to enable the development of the economic potential of marine mineral resources; and strengthening regional and national capacity in the mining, environment, labour and financial sectors to comply with relevant standards for the deep-sea mining industry within the region, while supporting environmental monitoring that seeks to preserve fragile marine ecosystems and biodiversity.
This regional framework is the first in the Seabed Minerals sector and is the response to the Forum leaders call and is available now to guide Pacific island countries to prepare relevant national legislative and regulatory frameworks in the seabed minerals area.
Marsters said "the completion of this important framework and its release by SPC here at the 2012 Leaders Forum provides a key message from us gathered here for this Forum with the theme Large Ocean Island States: The Pacific Challenge".
"Moana Nui O Kiva, our Pacific Ocean, it is deeply interwoven into the lives of all the people of the Pacific region. We rely upon our vast ocean for many life-supporting activities, such as fisheries for food for survival and income to support our livelihoods and families, transportation and recreation. But all the while as we enjoy her incredible bounty and blessings, our people remain vulnerable to the Ocean’s perils, in terms of devastating wave, sea and storm events, sea-level rise and climate change.
It is paramount to protect the Pacific Ocean and its vital character and resources for existing and future generations. As we continue to benefit from its vast resources, our Pacific people have a shared responsibility to protect and preserve the health of the Pacific Ocean, and this objective must be continue to be at the forefront of the national, regional and global agendas. Whether these vast resources be living or nonliving, whether these resources be at or near the surface or on the deep sea bed, the adoption of the best practices and the precautionary approach is vital ".
The framework has been prepared with substantial consultations and advice from NGOs, academics, international and regional agencies, and the private sector. The framework was completed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Applied Geoscience and Technology Division for the Pacific ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) States, funds were provided through a Regional Deep Sea Minerals Project by the European Union.
Fellow Pacific island countries participating in the project include many Forum countries: ourselves the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Marsters noted that, " For every Pacific island state, this area of national seabed vastly exceeds our respective land territories, indeed for many, like the Cook Islands, most of our sovereign territory is ocean. In fact, in this day and age, we declare ourselves proudly as a “Large Ocean State”. The Pacific ACP states have sovereignty over a vast area of the Pacific Ocean most of them with their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) much larger than their total island land area. The opportunity for several nations’ to access additional jurisdiction for potential seabed minerals through extended continental shelf claims under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, will increase this vast area even further. As at mid-2012 several Pacific ACP states, including the Cook Islands, have private sector interests engaged, or seeking to engage, in seabed minerals activities in their EEZ”.
Marsters stated that he sought “to temper this regional excitement that we share, with a call also for caution. We would not want to do anything today which will ruin the lives of our children and grandchildren, in cultural, social, environmental and economic terms. As a senior Pacific leader in the region, I encourage us all to accept and work together, that we must leave a legacy we are each proud of. We must enter this new seabed mineral frontier with common standards and upon the best advice available. And this is exactly what the EU/SPC regional Seabed Minerals project, administered by SOPAC, is designed and being implemented to achieve. And so as our next step in developing that positive legacy, today we are gathered here to mark the release of the important Regional Legislative and Regulatory Framework for Deep Sea Mineral Exploration and Exploitation by SPC”
Marsters concluded by stating that the Cook Islands strongly endorsed the new regional Framework, and would be urging the Leaders to do likewise noting that it highlights the need for a precautionary approach and addresses economic, social and environmental aspects to ensure sustainable resource use prevails.