Aug 23, 2017 Last Updated 2:11 PM, Jun 12, 2017

Cooks leads the way

Quota system for albacore, bigeye

The Cook Islands has become the first Pacific Island nation to adopt a quota management system (QMS) for its longline fishery to control catches of albacore and bigeye tuna. The Marine Resources (Large Pelagic Longline Fishery and Quota Management System) Regulations 2016 approved by Cabinet and the Executive Council last week, mark a significant step forward in allowing the Cook Islands to commit to a catch limit agreed to among Pacific Island countries through the Tokelau Arrangement for the Management of the South Pacific Longline Fishery and harvest strategy regulations being developed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).  

A fishery based on catch limits under a QMS is a management system that is globally regarded as best practice for commercial fisheries, and is supported by international environmental groups, including WWF. “We have received strong support regionally for taking the lead on transitioning from an effort-based system to a QMS. The focus is to restructure and control the longline fishery to meet our commitment to work with other States to ensure effective conservation and management of albacore and bigeye stocks,” says MMR Secretary Ben Ponia. “We are hoping this system will be adopted throughout the Pacific region. The Cook Islands can now set a precedent as one of the significant longline albacore fisheries in the region, and one of the few with a bigeye fishery,” says Ponia.

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Korea, Kiribati pay for services

PURSE seining revenue has accounted for the majority of fisheries revenue collected by the Cook Islands since 2014. According to Cooks Islands Fisheries Ministry submission to the country’s Purse Seining Special Select Committee, the increase in revenue has been in part directly associated with the vessel day price paid by the US Fisheries Treaty for the Cook Islands pool.

In addition, the Cook Islands has entered into bilateral fishing days with the US industry since 2014, and in 2015 there were large revenues associated with bilateral fishing days sold to the KoreanKiribati fleet. While the Cook Islands does not have the capacity for large-scale economic opportunities, a small tuna processing facility for 1500 tonnes in Rarotonga may be feasible. Penrhyn Harbour may also be utilised as a base for offloading, storing and transhipment of catch.

Local stevedores and labourers may be employed for maintenance of the purse seine net and other work. The ministry believes significant licensing revenues can be derived from the fishery provided government has the institutional capacity for scientific reporting of catches, monitoring and compliance of the fishing vessels, and sound fisheries policies. According to a study of fisheries revenues the access value of foreign fleet licenses in the region increased from $US92 million in 2007 to $US349 million in 2014.

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Full moon falling

Head of State avoids Cooks vote

‘THE work of the devil’ Clerk of Parliament John Tangi gave that explanation for an attempted vote-of-noconfidence in the government of the Cook Islands last month. According to news reports, Tangi blocked attempts by opposition members to enter parliament the day after the vote, or to approach the micro-state’s head of state. Security guards were also posted outside Parliament house to block access. Parliamentary staff were told to stand down and not accept instructions from opposition MPs.

Tangi was quoted by Radio Cook Islands as saying that “we don’t want them tangled in this illegal manner of doing things”.w His comments came as part of an unusually heated response to the vote attempt, in a country where party lines have blurred after endless coalitions, and endless crossings between government and opposition. Finance Minister Mark Brown described the attempt as “borderline treason” which could leave opposition members open to prosecution.

If true, any investigation will likely not include two government MPs who participated in the vote, but who Brown claimed were still part of the ruling party. He blamed former Speaker Norman George, a long-time party-swapper and prime ministerial aspirant, for orchestrating the latest power play.

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EXPECT tuna to be the main focus as the Cook Islands Government of Henry Puna seeks to consolidate support from the electorate half way through its term. But it won’t be an easy ride with Opposition Member of Parliament George Maggie driving protests against a deal between the Cook Islands and Spain’s super seiner fleets.  

In November more than 300 placardwaving protesters voiced their opposition to purse seine fishing which is expected to secure millions of dollars in revenue. The Cooks expect to record an operating surplus equivalent to 5.6 per cent of GDP on the back of higher revenues from fishing license sales and fines for illegal fishing and increased grants. With more fishing licences granted in 2016, Puna’s government will be hoping for a successful year.

There is some concern over fluctuating visitor arrivals. A 2.2 per cent drop in arrivals over the first three quarters of 2015 was likely driven by rising costs – always a difficulty in a small market far from the major shipping and air routes. Visitors from Australia – the largest source market - fell by nine per cent but there is hope for recovery in 2016 with the introduction of flights by low-cost airline, Jetstar.

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Cook Islands at

FIFTY years of self-government and free association with New Zealand has raised more questions than answers as Cook Islanders contemplate the relevance of that relationship today, as well as their place in the world and an uncertain future. Cook Islanders put aside Westminster pomp and ceremony for the country’s Constitutional celebrations which coincided with the Te Maeva Nui cultural festival in August. The departure from constitutional formality in favour of a traditional cultural celebrations reflected the occasion as the country took stock of half a century of social and political change.

The Cook Islands have matured since 1965 and the relationship has largely been favourable. Cook Islanders have benefited from New Zealand citizenship while taking pride in their sovereignty. But at what price? Free association gave New Zealand the power to act on the Cook Islands’ behalf in foreign policy and defence matters, a job New Zealand prime minister John Key says his country have done well and would continue to “ensure the Cook Islands has its voice heard internationally.” But his Cook Islands counterpart, Henry Puna wants his country to take back that responsibility.

He has been actively campaigning for his country to have a seat on the United Nations. A vote at the UN would give the Cook Islands more political leverage with foreign powers and open the doors to overseas aid and cash for economic development. The Cook Islands made a breakthrough in their foreign agenda this year by becoming a member of the UN’s International Labour Organisation; a move which would benefit local workers.

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