Cooks Conservation Group Launches Anti-Purse Seining Petition

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Te Ipukarea Society unhappy with fishing policy

By Phillipa Webb

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, April 9, 2015) – Te Ipukarea Society has taken the public’s outcry against purse seine fishing to the next level, launching a nationwide petition against the growth of the industry in the Cook Islands.

The society is calling for Cook Islanders who are fundamentally opposed to purse seining inside the Cook Islands exclusive economic zone to sign a petition, which will be available across the country.

The decision to launch a petition had not been taken lightly, a spokesman for TIS said.

"A petition is the legal course of action for the people of the Cook Islands to show the current Government that we, the voters, are unhappy about the purse seine fishing policy carried out by the Ministry of Marine Resources."

It asks ‘that the Cook Islands Government sells no more days for purse seine fishing as of the public consultation on purse seine fishing on March 16, 2015 and that the Cook Islands government phase out purse seine fishing in the Cook Islands’ exclusive economic zone when the current licences expire, and at the latest by March 2016’.

TIS has carried out an extensive campaign against purse seiners using fish aggregating devices (FADS).

However at a recent public meeting held by Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR), TIS technical director Kelvin Passfield called for a ban on purse seine fishing if MMR did not immediately stop the use of FADS. This has not happened, sparking the petition.

TIS has sought advice from parliament and a legal advisor to ensure the format of the petition will be correct when it is presented.

Purse seine fishing has been back in the spotlight this year following the recent announcement by MMR that Cabinet had granted approval to undertake a second round of negotiations to assign the remainder of the 1,250 purse seine fishing allocations for 2015.

The Ministry has already signed a deal with Korean fishing company Silla Co for 400 days of purse seine fishing, and a US fleet of purse seine vessels has been fishing in Cook Islands waters since 2012.

TIS life member Jolene Bosanquet said not many petitions were launched in the Cook Islands, and the last petition TIS had been involved in was in 1987 against the shipment of nuclear waste in the Pacific.

They collected 3000 signatures in two days, adding them to 30,000 signatures attached to a long piece of tapa material collected Pacific-wide by Greenpeace and presented it to the then-chairman of the South Pacific Forum, Sir Geoffrey Henry.

The purse seine petition will initially be available for signing at the TIS office in Tupapa, village shops on Rarotonga, Tahiti Café, Bite Time, Koru Café and at designated locations in the Pa Enua.

Any organisation or individual who wants to obtain a copy of the petition for circulation is welcome to contact TIS.

Only Cook Islands residents can sign the petition.

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