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[Media Release - MFAI] Cook Islands maritime boundaries now formally established

Monday 12 October 2020

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown has heralded the declaration of limits of the Cook Islands maritime zones earlier this month as a milestone in the Cook Islands demonstration of sovereignty and agency over its extensive oceans resources. The declaration is the final chapter in the Cook Islands delimitation of its 12-mile territorial seas, 24-mile contiguous zone and 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) outer limits boundaries established after many years of concerted effort to complete this work.

“The development of these important Regulations are the culmination of multi-year efforts by our Government, through a number of our domestic agencies and committed officials and supported by regional and international technical agencies,” said Prime Minister Brown. “This declaration, developed and secured within a complex international law oceans regime speaks to the technical expertise developed by our officials over a number of years and our determination as a large ocean island state to safeguard our rights and management of our resources whilst upholding our responsibilities as a member of the international community.”

In 2018, the Maritime Zones Act replaced the Continental Shelf Act 1964 and the Territorial Sea and Exclusive Economic Zone Act 1977. The purpose of the Act was to declare the territorial sea, contiguous zone, EEZ and continental shelf of the Cook Islands as its maritime zones.

The declaration of limits of the Cook Islands maritime zones earlier this month, made by way of four new Regulations made by Order in Executive Council include:

1. Maritime Zones (Exclusive Economic Zone Outer Limits) Regulations 2020

2. Maritime Zones (Contiguous Zone Outer Limits) Regulations 2020

3. Maritime Zones (Baseline of Territorial Sea) Regulations 2020

4. Maritime Zones (Territorial Sea Outer Limits) Regulations 2020

The establishment of these four new sets of Regulations was the result of ongoing efforts and collaboration between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration (MFAI), Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) and the National Hydrography/Geo Science division of Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI).

The Regulations, and in particular the geographic coordinate tables attached to them, will now be formally deposited by MFAI with the United Nations Department of Oceans and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS) in New York. The existing coordinates establishing the 200-mile outer limits will be replaced with the new coordinates attached to this new set of Regulations. Once gazetted, they will then be formally recognised by the United Nations and the international community at large.

The delimitation of the Cook Islands boundary lines took advantage of the latest high-resolution satellite imagery to establish much more accurate base points on each of the islands, and in some cases resulted in small shifts in the lines informally established from earlier base point coordinates in the favour of the Cook Islands.

The formal establishment of the boundary lines help remove the possibility of fishing vessels and other related craft inadvertently finding themselves inside waters under Cook Islands jurisdiction, and as such will make Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities much easier to detect, deter, and ultimately make the application of fisheries law and penalties more rigidly enforceable. In addition, the declaration of the Cook Islands maritime boundaries will assist significantly in supporting the Pacific Leaders statement in their 2019 Declaration, where they noted with concern the threat posed by the sea-level rise to our region, and reaffirmed their commitment to conclude negotiations on all outstanding maritime boundaries claims and zones to ensure that our rights, responsibilities and access to resources within our maritime boundaries are secure. Additionally, it supports the collective effort, including through developing international law, to ensuring that once a Forum Member’s maritime zones are delineated in accordance with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, that their maritime zones could not be challenged or reduced as a result of sea-level rise and climate change.

“The timely introduction of these important regulations bolster current government and cross-society efforts to enhance the manner in which we as a nation manage our oceans resources,” said MFAI Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann. “The devastating impacts of COVID19 felt here at home and across the globe, has shown us that now more than ever, we must elevate our efforts and invest in sustainable development opportunities to achieve our socio-economic development aspirations. We must capitalize on emerging technologies and our investment in infrastructure, to more efficiently and effectively realise the benefits derived from our oceans resources and in so doing, we will build a more diverse and resilient economy. In that regard, MFAI is looking to release the Cook Islands International Engagement on Oceans Policy together with MMRs “Mana Tiaki o te Moana” framework, formerly known as the “Natural Currency Standard” in the coming weeks working closely with domestic and regional stakeholders.”

Much appreciation is extended towards the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community for their invaluable technical assistance over the years; Vaipo Mataroa from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Planning (MOIP), the Government of Australia, and the Commonwealth Secretariat for their funding and resourcing assistance.

Queries regarding this media release or the Cook Islands Maritime Boundaries can be directed to MFAI UN, Treaties and Oceans Division Director Josh Mitchell at josh.mitchell@cookislands.gov.ck or phone 29347



1 June 2016, UN Headquarters, New York – current Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown signing the Paris Agreement. The Cook Islands was the 176th country to sign the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. PM Brown pictured with United Nations Chief of Treaty Section Santiago Villalpando;

2 October 2019, Spain – Cook Islands delegation to the International Maritime Organisation organized Ministerial Conference on Fishing Vessel Safety and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Meeting where the Cook Islands submitted its Instrument of Accession to the Capetown Agreement which outlines fishing vessels standards and regulations designed to protect the safety of crew and observers. Left to Right; Secretary Ministry of Marine Resources Pam Maru; former Prime Minister Henry Puna and MFAI Director UN, Treaties and Oceans Division Josh Mitchell; and

3 UN Headquarters, New York - Cook Islands GIS Manager and Director Civil Works with Infrastructure Cook Islands Vaipo Mataora