5 Aug 2003

Cook Islands fishing industry calls for halt to issuing licenses

4:19 pm on 5 August 2003

Members of the longline fishing industry in the Cook Islands are calling for a halt to licenses being issued and new regulations to be put in place.

Teariki Matenga says they've met with cabinet to put their concerns about the fledgling industry being overrun by newcomers such as New Zealand company, Sealords, which has teamed up with a local businessman.

He says they're worried that the system as it stands is susceptible to abuse because licenses are handed out by the one person, the secretary of Marine Resources.

Mr Matenga also says nobody knows the number of licenses that should be issued to ensure the fish stock is sustainable.

"We don't want to get into a situation like Fiji has experienced recently,..... they started their fishing industry they just moved in and issued I think something up to 200 licenses, and finding out that their fish stocks are not sustainable under the number of licenses issued."

Mr Matenga says the cabinet has agreed to establish a board to issue licenses and to consult more widely about planned amendments to the Marine Resources Act.

Sealords teamed up with Brett Porter and Nino D'esposito to form Cook Islands Fish Exports Ltd.

Mr D'esposito and his brother were fined 580,000 U.S. dollars and convicted of 300 offences in 1994 under New Zealand's quota management system.

They were also directors of a company which went into receivership, stranding two fishing boats in Port Nelson and in 2001 pleaded guilty to some minor charges over their Esplanade no. 3 fishing company, related to incomplete records.