300 Protestors March Against Purse Seine Fishing In Cook Islands

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Opposition MP leads march in opposition to Spanish purse seiner deal

By Phillipa Webb

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Nov. 23, 2015) – A rally of 300 protestors marched through Avarua on Saturday calling out to the government to put a stop to purse seine fishing in Cook Island waters.

Despite the rain, hundreds of protestors rallied behind Member of Parliament for Tupapa, George Maggie, as he led the anti-purse seining march through Avarua to the new Constitution Park on Saturday morning.

A standout feature of the march was "Captain" Moko and his young helpers who sat in the back of his truck calling out, "liar, liar pants on fire," to Prime Minister Henry Puna, who has supported the growth of the controversial industry in the Cook Islands’ exclusive economic zone.

Other protests held clever placards reading – "Less Puna, More Tuna", "No Fish, No Future" and "We want da fish, not da money".

The march was made up of a diverse range of protestors – from government workers, fishermen, tourists and young people – showing just how the purse seining issue cuts through all sections of the community.

Police were on hand to lead the peaceful protest through the centre of town and many onlookers stopped to take photos of the marchers.

The decision to hold the march was made in light of the current growth of purse seine fishing in Cook Island waters and to coincide with World Fisheries Day.

The Ministry of Marine Resources is set to get Cabinet to sign up to a $9.6 million deal to allow a fleet of Spanish purse seiners to fish in the Cook Islands EEZ.

Meanwhile, the 4000-plus signature petition calling for a total ban on purse seine fishing in the Cook Islands remains untouched in Parliament.

On April 24 about 400 people, young and old, marched through Avarua, Rarotonga wearing screen-printed shirts and waving placards in the country’s first anti-purse seining protest.

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