15 Mar 2016

Manihiki rethink on Cooks purse seine petition

9:29 am on 15 March 2016

Cook Islanders living on the northern island of Manihiki have called for their signatures to be withdrawn from a petition to ban purse seine fishing within their waters.

About 4,000 Cook Islanders signed the petition that the government said would be considered by a select committee.

Manihikians made the call at the start of the month during government consultation on purse seine fishing.

The petition was organised by the environmental NGO Te Ipukarea.

A young protester in the Cook Islands. The government has a draft agreement with the European Union for Spanish purse seine vessels to fish in its waters.

2015 protest against purse seine vessels from Spain in Cook Islands waters. Photo: Flo Syme Buchanan

Its spokesperson Kelvin Passfield said the petition followed attempts to limit the by-catch of endangered fish species by stopping purse seine fishers using high tech lures known as fish aggreagation devices.

"But within the Cook Islands community there was a lot of people who wanted an outright ban on purse seining. So we saw the only way to really get the people to come together was just to join with them and say 'we want a ban on purse seining' because the purse seining in the Cook Islands uses fish aggregating devices."

The minister of finance Mark Brown said the Manihikians were swayed by the bigger picture of fishing in the Pacific.

"Questions of course were raised by our people on the level of sustainability of the purse seine fishery, whether that was going to have an impact on our fisheries and their ability to catch fish for food security. But we were able to provide infomation and data that we've received both through our Ministry of Marine but also through the Tuna Commission."

Mark Brown said if the Cook Islands banned purse seine fishing its saleable fishing days, allocated by the Forum Fisheries Agency, would be given to other countries.