The Cook Islands ( ( listen); Cook Islands Māori: Kūki 'Āirani) is a self-governing island country in the South Pacific Ocean in free association with New Zealand. It comprises 15 islands whose total land area is 240 square kilometres (92.7 sq mi). The Cook Islands' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers 1,800,000 square kilometres (690,000 sq mi) of ocean.
New Zealand is responsible for the Cook Islands' defence and foreign affairs, but they are exercised in consultation with the Cook Islands. In recent times, the Cook Islands have adopted an increasingly independent foreign policy. Although Cook Islanders are citizens of New Zealand, they have the status of Cook Islands nationals, which is not given to other New Zealand citizens.
The Cook Islands' main population centres are on the island of Rarotonga (10,572 in 2011), where there is an international airport. There is a larger population of Cook Islanders in New Zealand itself; in the 2013 census, 61,839 people said they were Cook Islanders.
With about 100,000 visitors travelling to the islands in the 2010–11 financial year, tourism is the country's main industry, and the leading element of the economy, ahead of offshore banking, pearls, and marine and fruit exports....LESS
BRUNSWICK, Maine (AP) — A marine biologist believes a humpback whale shielded her from a 15-foot tiger shark in the South Pacific. Nan Hauser said she didn't understand the actions of the 25-ton whale that she met face-to-face in the Cook Islands. Then she saw the shark.