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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, Mar. 18) - The Cook Islands government plans to introduce harsher penalties for boats caught fishing illegally in its exclusive economic zone.

Navy Epati, the secretary of Marine Resources, says there are mounting concerns over predominantly Asian fishing boats in Cooks waters.

Epati said the current maximum fine of US$275,000 will be increased and boats will be forfeited.

"The trend is to be harsh as possible," Epati said. "Right now we have to apply to the court once we catch a boat, for forfeiture. We are going to change that and make it automatic that any vessel that's caught is forfeited immediately, and they have to apply to the court to have it released."

Epati said the new Marine Resources Act will be presented to parliament at its next session.

The Cook Islands will also be asking Australia and New Zealand at their annual discussions to increase twice-weekly surveillance flights.

March 19, 2003

Radio New Zealand International: 

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