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Protects non-tuna species form over-fishing

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Feb. 22, 2010) - The Cook Islands has become the second country to sign a treaty on the conservation and management of high seas fisheries this month.

While in Wellington earlier this month, deputy prime minister and minister of marine resources Robert Wigmore signed the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fishery Resources in the South Pacific Ocean (SPRFMO) on behalf of the country.

The treaty covers the Pacific Ocean south of the equator from West Australia to the West, and to the edge of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Chile and Peru to the East. It protects non-tuna species from over-fishing. The country has two Cook Islands flagged fishing vessels in the Jack Mackerel fishery west of Chile and Peru.

The treaty was negotiated over eight sessions and participants included the European Union, United States, Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, Chile and Peru.

Minister Wigmore said he was pleased that the Cook Islands delegations played a significant role in negotiating the text of the treaty. The treaty will come into force after eight signatures have been obtained. The signing took place at the office of New Zealand (NZ) minister of fisheries Phil Heatley.

At the same meeting the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), who was accompanied by acting secretary of foreign affairs Mike Mitchell, signed the official arrangement between the Cook Islands and New Zealand on High Seas Fisheries issues.

While in Wellington, Wigmore and Mitchell also called upon the Ambassador for China, at the Chinese Embassy.

At that meeting, the DPM sought clarification on the 25 tractors that China has promised to supply from grant money.

The ambassador explained that the arrangements are well underway but that China and Cook Islands should sign an exchange of notes – there would be a public bidding process to supply the tractors in China, and then a designated company will organize production and delivery of the tractors. He said he thought these procedures should be completed in three to four months.

The Chinese ambassador has said China would welcome a delegation of planters and growers to China for the purposes of gaining knowledge on the production of crops as well.

Discussions also involved renewable energy, as the Chinese government had earlier been approached for assistance in a trial project involving alternative generation of electricity in the outer islands.

Talks then focused on the possibility of assistance with constructing a jetty on the western side of Rarotonga in order to provide an alternative landing area for visiting cruise liners.

All the minister’s travel costs were covered by the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).

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