Country Profiles

Cook Islands - Country Profile

Status and Trends of Biodiversity


The Cook Islands is a small island country of 240 square kilometers spread over 15 widely scattered islands with an oceanic EEZ of about 2 million square kilometers. The islands are divided into two groups: a Northern Group and a Southern Group. Northern Group islands are mainly atolls with a very limited terrestrial flora and fauna, and an abundant and diverse marine fauna. The Southern Group has its richest terrestrial flora and fauna on the high island of Rarotonga, followed by the raised islands of Mangaia, Atiu, Mauke and Mitiaro. The lagoonal and nearshore marine biodiversity is greatest on the atolls of Palmerston and Manuae, and on the almost-atoll of Aitutaki.

Number and Extent of Protected Areas

The Cook Islands have protected areas that include national parks, nature reserves, protected uninhabited atolls, marine reserves, conservation areas or wildlife sanctuaries. Most of these areas were established under customary law. To date, there are eighteen known protected areas covering an area of one thousand seven hundred and ninety six hectares.

Percentage of Forest Cover

Approximately sixty percent of the total land area in the Cook Islands is still covered by forest. This is relatively very high coverage area compared to the other developing nations and other Pacific Island nations. Removal of forest was mostly for plantation development.

National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan

Major features of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

Theme A: Endangered Species Management Strategic Goal A1: Conserve Cook Islands native and important naturalised plants and animals, and provide for their sustainable use. Strategic Goal A2: Conserve important agricultural and non-naturalised species and provide for their sustainable use (Agro-biodiversity).

Theme B: Invasive Species Management Strategic Goal B1: Reduce the adverse impacts of invasive species on indigenous species and ecosystems, and prevent new invasions. Strategic Goal B2: Reduce the adverse impacts of invasive species on agricultural species and ecosystems and prevent new invasions.

Theme C: Ecosystem Management Strategic Goal C: Conserve important ecosystems through a system of protected areas with regulated and monitored activities.

Theme D: Equitable Sharing of Benefits Strategic Goal D: Ensure that the uses of biodiversity, including genetic resources, bring equitable benefits to relevant stakeholders.

Theme E: Management of Knowledge related to Biodiversity Strategic Goal E: Record and maintain records of scientific and traditional knowledge related to biodiversity, with consideration of Intellectual Property Rights.

Theme F: Biodiversity Awareness and Education Strategic Goal F: Make biodiversity information more readily available to all stakeholders and interested people.

Theme G: Mainstreaming Biodiversity Strategic Goal G: Integrate biodiversity into national and sectoral legislation, policies, plans and programmes.

Implementation of the Convention

Measures Taken to Achieve the 2010 Target

The Environment Act 2003, island strategic plans for each of the 12 inhabited islands of the Cook Islands, the National Sustainable Development Plan, the National Environment Strategic Action Framework 2005-2009, and the Millennium Development Goals recognize the 2010 target and have worked towards minimizing adverse impacts on the environment including biodiversity loss.

Initiatives in Protected Areas

The Cook Islands have established a national system and, to some extent, a local system, for declaring and managing protected areas under its Environment Act 2003 and related draft island by-laws and regulations.

Initiatives for Article 8(j)

There is work in progress led by the Ministry of Justice on Intellectual Property Rights together with WIPO. In addition, the Cook Islands have reviewed in 2006 and established its National Research Foundation to manage all researches to be undertaken in the Cook Islands, including the protection of traditional knowledge related to biodiversity.