Cook Islands Environmental Group Calls For Certified Purse Seiners

admin's picture

Sustainably-managed vessels only should fish in Cooks waters

By Ben Chapman-Smith Ben Chapman-Smith

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, August 20, 2014) – If the Cook Islands is to allow purse seine fleets to fish our waters, it should accept only those certified as sustainably-managed fisheries, says Te Ipukarea Society.

The local environmental group has made a number of suggestions for the Government to consider in its deliberations about granting fishing access to foreign entities.

One of these is to allow in only purse seine fleets which do not rely heavily on fish aggregating devices (FADs).

FADS are used by fisherman to attract multitudes of fish, but the method is controversial because it can increase the by-catch of species like bigeye tuna, which is under threat across the region.

Te Ipukarea Society (TIS) says there are some purse seine fleets that do not rely heavily on fishing around FADs.

"In Kiribati, most of the Korean purse seine catch is not caught around FADs. These fish are certified under the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label as coming from a sustainably managed fishery, and as a result the catch is worth more per fish."

Kelvin Passfield, Technical Director at TIS, said he knows little about the Korean fleet but the point is that MSC-certified purse seine fisheries do exist.

"The Cook Islands might like to consider this as an option to continue gaining revenue, and also enhance our reputation as a leader in the region in tuna fisheries management."

US purse seiners are currently the only ones licensed to fish in the Cook Islands’ Exclusive Economic Zone, but a proposal exists to allow in Spanish purse seiners.

TIS says the capture of juvenile bigeye tuna by purse seiners setting on FADs is a major contributing factor to the decline of bigeye stocks.

It argues that bigeye caught on a longline are, on average, more than 10 times bigger than those caught by a purse seiner.

Bigeye caught on a longline are marketed to the high-value sashimi market and are worth, on average, six times more per kilo than those caught by purse seiners, TIS says.

"By banning purse seine fishing on FADs, more bigeye would be available to grow to 40 plus kgs, and be available for the lucrative longline fishery."

In addition, the Cook Islands can further demonstrate its regional leadership in fisheries management and contribute to bigeye stock recovery by reducing the number of licences it issues for longlining, TIS says.

"At the same time, we can maintain or increase our fisheries revenue by increasing our license fee for the foreign vessels, which would be benefiting from our exemplary sustainable fisheries management resulting in the increased availability of bigeye, due to our ban on FADs."

These management measures are likely to result in increased catches for locally-based fishing vessels, perhaps encouraging more local investment in offshore fisheries, and keeping profits in the country, the group says.

The Cook Islands is currently in the process of being assessed for MSC certification of its albacore fishery.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment