China's Distant Water Fisheries Association has paid the Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources just over 600 thousand US dollars for 17 fishing licences.
It allows 17 Chinese vessels to operate in Cook Islands waters as part of the Ministry's exploratory fishing programme.
The payment gives each Chinese vessel a 12-month licence, which may be extended on a yearly basis for the duration of the three-year exploratory programme.
The Cook Islands government recently approved the issuing of up to 24 licences for foreign vessels to fish inside the country's exclusive economic zone for the exploratory programme.
The Chinese vessels will target bigeye and swordfish.