Cooks PM To Join NZ Fisheries Study Tour

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

Puna, regional fisheries ministers to learn about NZ experience

By Rashneel Kumar

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, April 6, 2016) – Prime Minister Henry Puna’s determination to secure the sustainability of the country’s tuna resource is behind his decision to join a study tour in New Zealand next week, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) says.

Puna will participate in the visit alongside Pacific fisheries ministers, as a result of the outcomes of last year’s Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

Last year, in support of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Fisheries, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key pledged to accommodate a study tour for ministers of fisheries and foreign affairs.

Puna will be attending a ministerial meeting and study tour in Wellington and Nelson from April 12-15.

A press release issued by OPM yesterday said Puna would be accompanied by MP Moana Ioane and Ministry of Marine Resources secretary Ben Ponia.

The study tour is expected to come in handy for Puna who is due to finalise the proposed $4.5 million fishing deal with the European Union.

However the tour has also come in for criticism from Te Ipukarea Society technical director Kelvin Passfield.

He says the prime minister, and Ponia should have done their tuna sustainability studies before initialling every page of the EU Sustainable Fisheries Partnership agreement, and then urging Cabinet to agree to it.

The partnership agreement is clearly very unsustainable for bigeye tuna stocks, says Passfield.

"This deal just hastens the demise of bigeye tuna by catching hundreds of thousands of juvenile bigeye tuna, which are already overfished."

The FFA Roadmap sets out important strategies to increase the value of the tuna to the Pacific from this vital, shared resource, and to improve its sustainability, the Office of the Prime Minister’s press release says.

"One of the flaws of the region’s tuna fisheries is that it is essentially an open fishery without a system to sustainably control catches. Therefore adopting catch-based fisheries is regarded as a critical aspect of the Roadmap.

"At the PNG-hosted Forum Leaders’ meeting, PM Key offered to share the lessons learnt from their own fisheries quota management system as a basis for developing catch-based fisheries. "MMR is currently developing a quota management system for the tuna longline fishery and this is expected to be the first of its kind to be adopted in the Pacific Islands. The Cook Islands will be closely following the lessons learnt under the New Zealand quota management system."

According to the release, the meeting and study tour will include a look at how customary rights are incorporated into management regimes, the systems used to manage fisheries, compliance processes and a broad range of perspective engagements from industry and academics. Also joining the study tour will be heads of the Forum Secretariat, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the Forum Fisheries Agency.

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