26 Jan 2011

Controversial Cook Islands fishing licences scrutinised

2:20 pm on 26 January 2011

The Cook Islands audit office has completed a report into arrangements which the previous government made with the Northern Cook Islands Fishing Company which was granted 16 commercial fishing licences in 2008.

It's understood the company then on-sold the highly valued licences in Taiwan.

Flo Syme Buchanan reports from Rarotonga.

"There were also concerns that the licences were issued outside of prescribed Marine Resources legislation. The number of commercial fishing licences that can operate in the Cook Islands at any one time are limited to 40 and are valid for a year. These are each normally sold to offshore fishing companies for around 30 thousand US dollars - however, it is believed that NCIFC paid considerably less for the 16 licences it got. The company's application was supported by the former government on the condition it set up operations in the northern island of Manihiki to create jobs and an outlet for local fishermen to sell their catch. The company was to also transport by-catch to the Rarotonga market. None of these undertakings were fully delivered by the company."