25 Nov 2011

Cooks signs deal with China for exploratory fishing

5:15 pm on 25 November 2011

The Cook Islands government has signed a three-year access agreement with China for the exploratory fishing of bigeye tuna and swordfish.

The deal allows up to 20 Chinese vessels access to fish in the Cook Islands exclusive economic zone for the next three years as part of the Ministry of Mineral Resources exploratory fishing programme.

The Cook Islands will earn around 600 thousand US dollars in fees in the first year, with that figure to be re-negotiated in each of the two subsequent years.

The secretary of Marine Resources, Ben Ponia, says it's quite a significant deal for the Cook Islands because not much is known about bigeye and swordfish within their EEZ.

"We have a fairly healthy, well-developed fishery around albacore stocks. So this is really a way forward in diversifying our fishery. The scale of it is also, I suppose, significant for a small administration like ours. Fishing will be done in some sense at a commercial scale to draw some relative catches that we can be quite sure that we have a fishery to develop."

The Cook Islands secretary of Marine Resources, Ben Ponia.