13 Apr 2016

Cook Islands PM defends legality of EU fishing deal

11:27 am on 13 April 2016

The Cook Islands prime minister, Henry Puna, has rejected opposition claims that a deal with the European Union on fishing access is illegal.

The opposition had contended that the secretary of marine resources, Ben Ponia, by initialling the plan, had acted illegally.

The US$6.5 million dollar deal would grant access to four EU purse seiners to catch up to 7,000 tonnes of tuna a year in the Cooks' Exclusive Economic Zone.

Mr Puna, who is also fisheries minister, said all Mr Ponia has done is initial a draft agreement for discussion and negotiation purposes.

"And that is all. The agreement does not become binding until and unless it is officially signed off by the parties. And in our case the Ministry of Marine Resources, namely myself, will have to sign the agreement. That has not been signed yet," Mr Puna said.

The proposed deal has proved to be controversial in the Cook Islands, with large protests staged against the proposed deal last year.

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