Discussions are currently being initiated by the Ministry of Marine Resources to establish three exploratory fisheries programmes for: (1) a domestic purse seine fishery (2) a tropical tuna longline fishery targeting big eye tuna; and (3) a swordfish fishery.
The Cook Islands has emerged as a strategic player due to its proximity to the Pago Pago processing facilities, untapped fishing grounds and highly policed waters.
At present most of the fishing in the Cook Islands is targeting albacore tuna in the northern waters with peak catches now levelling of between 6-8,000 metric tonnes per year. However, according to the Secretary for Marine Resources, Ben Ponia, there is sufficient evidence, albeit no catch history, to suggest that the Cook Islands also has commercially valuable stocks of skipjack tuna, big eye tuna and swordfish in its EEZ and adjacent high seas waters.
The Marine Resources Act 2005 provides in Section 25 for the Secretary to prepare a report to the Minister recommending the approval of a exploratory fishery where the Secretary considers that scientific research or anecdotal information suggests that a fishery may exist. The Minister may, with the concurrence of Cabinet, approve the establishment of an exploratory fishery for a limited period of time for the purpose of establishing:
According to Ponia, “We need to establish our domestic and international rights as a fishing nation and to be proactive in encouraging the type of operators and economic spin offs that we would like to leverage from our fishery resource. The exploratory fishing regime provides us with the avenue to test our waters for new fish stocks with the intention to regulate them once a sustainable and profitable fishery can be proven”.
Discussions are underway with some major fishing companies to gauge their interest in tendering for the exploratory fishing licenses. The Ministry goal is to have a licensed fishery returning revenue to the Crown of at least $5 – $7 million per annum with 3 – 5 years.
– Ministry of Marine Resources Media Realease
Cook Islands weightlifter, 18 year old Luisa Peters has picked up three gold medals at the Commonwealth Junior and Senior Champs being held in Malaysia.
Robert Graham of CISNOC advised the Herald on Wednesday afternoon of Luisa’s achievement and said although no other details were at hand yet, he could confirm that Luisa had achieved a personal best. She had also improved immensely on her performance at the same Champs in 2009 when she picked up a bronze medal.
Now that airline deals have been nailed down to accommodate visitors from Australia, North America and Fiji, it may be time for the tourism industry to look to the Orient for its next market.
Speaking to the press after Thursday’s signing of a generous grant assistance framework agreement between China and the Cook Islands, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Secretary Jim Gosselin noted that, among the topics discussed with Chinese Ambassador H.E. Xu Jianguo, was how to increase visitor numbers from China.
Gosselin said some 50 million Chinese tourists went abroad in 2010. If just one per cent of those avid adventurers arrived on these shores, that would amount to an increase of 500,000 visitors. “We’re looking at how we can actually bring that to fruition,” said Gosselin, adding that the Cook Islands is one of the accepted countries China allows its citizens to visit.
While local businesses might be feeling a yen for the yen, Gosselin cautioned that several details have to be ironed out first, including requesting New Zealand to make it easier for Chinese travellers to acquire transit visas.
“We just have to have discussions with our New Zealand friends to see how that can be done,” Gosselin said.
By John Ireland