In San Francisco last week, the Goldman Environmental Prize recognized six activists from around the world, including Jacqui Evans of the Cook Islands.
The prize citation credits Evans as the persistent organizer responsible for the enactment of a law called Marae Moana, which established Marine Protected Areas that extend 50 nautical miles around each of the country’s 15 islands. That covers 763,000 square miles where commercial fishing and seabed mining are banned.
After accepting her award, Jacqui Evans told RNZ Pacific the project began five years ago when world rugby star Kevin Iro returned home to the Cook Islands, came up with the idea to establish the park and asked what kind of assistance she might need. The goal now, she said, was to make sure it’s more than just a paper park, to work on regulations and planning to make the Marae Moana really effective.
Evans also said that the legislation could serve as a model for the entire Pacific.
“I think it’s going to draw a lot of attention,” she told RNZ Pacific. “I can see that it will benefit the Pacific region as a whole in terms of our long term sustainability of our marine environment.”
As a mother, she said her life-long commitment to marine preservation stems from a determination to leave a clean ocean for the children of the Cook Islands, “I don’t want to leave them with a mess,” she said.