13 Nov 2015

Cooks Govt fish deal with EU surprises locals

6:01 am on 13 November 2015

The Cook Islands government is being accused of a lack of transparency surrounding fishing negotiations that could see more purse seiners allowed to fish in Cook Islands waters.

Earlier this year more than 4,000 people, or half the voting population, signed a petition asking the government to ban purse seiners, but a draft deal with the EU that allows in Spanish purse seiners has recently been revealed.

Our correspondent, Florence Syme Buchanan says the fact the government continued to negotiate a purse seine agreement with the EU has come as a surprise, because the public was not properly consulted.

She says there are real concerns about the contents of the agreement, despite assurances made by the Marine Resources Secretary, Ben Ponia, that they will be targetting skipjack tuna, which has a healthy population.

"Well in the agreement, there is no mention of skipjack. What it does say is that purse seiners will be fishing for tuna, and tuna like species. That means they can catch anything."

Florence Syme Buchanan says Ben Ponia also failed to mention a clause in the agreement that allows purse seiners to exceed their catch, and that the deal allows for experimental fishing.

She says the only reason people in the Cook Islands became aware of this agreement is because the European Union published an article online which mentioned an agreement being made with the Cook Islands.

A net filled with skipjack tuna coming out of the hold of a purse seine fishing vessel anchored in the Marshall Islands as it off-loads the fish to a mothership for transfer to Asian canneries.

Fishermen on a purse seine vessel in the Pacific. Photo: AFP