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Cook Islands: Puna reviews EU fishing deal

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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Cook Islands: Puna reviews EU fishing deal

It seems Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna may be bowing to public pressure against the proposed $4.5 million fishing deal with the European Union. Puna has apparently upped the level of oversight of the proposed controversial fishing deal, which could allow four Spanish purse seiners to fish in Cook Islands waters over the next four years. The Prime Minister has tasked a core committee to apply a “thorough assessment of the draft agreement and be involved in dealing with arising issues.” In addition to the Ministry of Marine Resources, Cabinet directed officials from Foreign Affairs, Crown Law and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management to review the draft last Friday. “Government wants the fullest assessment of all aspects of the draft agreement and a concerted approach with its implications, in preparation for consultation with stakeholders and the public,” said Puna. “The process must be robust in consideration of sustaining the country’s fisheries.” Talks of the deal sparked the second anti-purse seining petition in Rarotonga late last year, which saw hundreds turn out to call for a complete ban on purse seining. The Spanish purse seiners, nicknamed “monster seiners” are notorious for their use of fish aggregated devices (FADs). Significantly, opposition to purse seining have said they are against the use of FADs, however the draft text of the deal does not ban their use in Cook Islands’ waters. Ministry of Marine Resources secretary Ben Ponia said Cabinet had its first sitting for the year last week on Friday and the draft Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the Cook Islands and European Union was one of the agenda items. “Cabinet has instructed that a Committee comprising of Ministry of Marine Resources, Crown Law Office and Ministry of Finance and Economic Management examine all aspects of the draft Fisheries Partnership Agreement.”

Source: PINA