3 Oct 2011

Cook Islands marine official defends proposal for more foreign fishing involvement

2:38 pm on 3 October 2011

The secretary of the Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources is defending a proposal that could result in more foreign companies fishing in the country's waters from next year.

Memoranda of understanding have been signed as part of government plans to develop new areas to complement its northern fishery.

Ben Ponia's comments come as the ministry prepares to install new fish aggregating devices around Rarotonga, with the aim of boosting catch rates for the country's two-thousand fishers.

There's anecdotal agreement among them that foreign vessels are already having an impact on fish stocks but Mr Ponia says he doesn't agree that they're overfishing.

"Cook Islands has possibly the least fished fishery in the entire Pacific considering the size of our EEZ and the potential resource that can be harvested. This is a shared common resource. We only take less than point three of a percent of the total fish stock that's being caught."

Ben Ponia says one of the biggest problems is not knowing how much is being caught and the ministry's hoping to get more people to complete logsheets.