COOK Islands

Summary of the GCCA+ SUPA project in Cook Islands

The GCCA+ SUPA project used a consultative and people centred approach to conduct an impact analysis (iA) of past water security and marine resources management in Mangaia and Mauke; and to upgrade the Aitutaki Marine Research Station and integrate traditional knowledge into climate change education programs for youth.

Project Focus: Marine Resources

Direct benefit: 7,500 persons
Indirect benefit: 6,000 persons

  • Geographic coordinates: Lat. 8°S – 24°S, Long. 157°- 166°W
  • Total land area 237 km²
  • Exclusive economic zone (EEZ) 1,800,000 km²
  • Population (2010 mid-year) 15,708
  • GDP per capita (USD) 19,193
    • Temperatures have warmed and will continue to warm with more very hot days in the future.
    • Annual rainfall in the Cook Islands is not projected to change but rainfall may decrease in the dry season in the Northern Cook Islands. Rainfall patterns are projected to change over this century with more frequent and more intense extreme rainfall days.
    • Sea level near the Cook Islands has risen and will continue to rise throughout this century.
    • Ocean acidification has been increasing in the Cook Islands’ waters. It will continue to increase and threaten coral reef ecosystems.

Source: BOM, CSIRO, 2014, Climate Variability, Extremes and Change in the Western Tropical Pacific: New Science and Updated Country Reports

How does this project address climate change adaptation in Cook Islands?

Livelihoods in the outer Cook Islands (Pa Enua) are closely tied to the natural environment and fisheries resources are the most important source of food security and income. The effects of climate change on temperatures, rainfall, weather extremes, sea level, lagoon salinity, reef sedimentation and ocean acidification is exacerbating the difficulties experienced by island residents in the harvesting of marine resources.

Given the geographical range of the Cook Islands, from 8°-24 °S, the monitoring of the country’s marine resources is extremely challenging. The project will build the capacity of the Ministry of Marine Resources to strengthen remote monitoring sites, and in particular the Aitutaki Marine Research Centre, such that it becomes more independent from Rarotonga and has sufficient technical capacity to operate on its own. The project will also expand the marine monitoring programme to Aitutaki and target resources that are harvested by Aitutaki residents.

Focusing on the people living in Aitutaki, Atiu, Mauke, Mitiaro, the project will adopt a participatory and inclusive approach that addresses the vulnerabilities and the rights of all residents. Skills in climate resilience will be enhanced, particularly for island council members and community leaders.

Traditional knowledge plays an important role in the culture of the Cook Islands and especially in the management and use of terrestrial and marine resources in the Pa Enua. The project will work with young Cook Islanders in the southern group of the Pa Enua to adopt a hands-on approach to environmental conservation that incorporates traditional knowledge and builds climate resilience.

Cook Islands is one of the four countries where the full methodology for accessing the impact of completed climate change adaptation projects is being tested.

Read more:

Key Highlights

  • Expanding marine monitoring programmes to include aquaculture, water quality, biodiversity resource surveys, coral health and crown-of-thorns starfish.
  • Upgrading the Aitutaki Marine Research Centre to expand its operational, technical and research capacity and optimise its aquaculture functions.
  • Enhancing the tourism potential and developing an operational plan for the Aitutaki Marine Research Centre.
  • Integrating climate resilience and traditional knowledge into extra-curricular school programmes and training teachers to deliver the programmes in Aitutaki and selected islands in the Southern Group.
  • Integrating traditional knowledge into the Marae Moana spatial plan.
  • Conducting a needs analysis and raising awareness about climate resilience for local area stakeholders.
  • Building the capacity of community leaders and island council members in climate resilience through accredited training.
  • Integrating climate change and disaster risk into local area sustainable development plans.
  • Assessing the impacts of past climate change adaptation projects and applying the results to national strategic planning.
  • Testing an impact assessment methodology on completed climate change interventions.

Activities meet the following SDGs:


Enhancing marine resource monitoring

Concept Note

Climate Change Profile

Consultation Report – Aug 2019

Consultation Report – Nov 2019

Project Design Document – Amended June 2021

Expanding marine monitoring

Aitutaki Marine Research Centre Capacity Needs Assessment

Standard Operating Procedures for Clam Spawning at the Aitutaki Marine Research Center

Web story: Enhancing a Climate Resilient Marine Sector in the Cook Islands

Aitutaki Giant Clam Spawning- Dec 2021

Integrating traditional knowledge

Web Story: Saving the coral reef around Mauke Island, One taramea at a time

Building community resilience

Strategic planning

SPREP GCCA+ SUPA Wash Poster (English)

SPREP GCCA+ SUPA Wash Poster (Maori)

Video: Impacts Analysis (IA) Methodology reflection

Cook Islands trial experience – impacts Analysis (IA) Methodology reflection