Purse Seine Fishery Contributes 75% Of Cook Islands Fisheries Revenue

Earnings increase over $700,000 from previous year

By Rashneel Kumar

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, August 11, 2016) – Purse seine fishery has contributed more than three quarters of the record revenue collected by the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) for the financial year 2015/16.

In a statement, MMR said the industry had earned around $13.6 million, about a million dollar more than the previous financial year, in the 2015/16 financial year which ended on June 30.

Out of the recent total income, the purse seine fishery accounted for $10.4 million. Purse seining has met with wide criticism from the public, who are seeking a ban on purse seine fishing in the Cook Islands.

Longline fishery licensing revenues contributed $2.7 million and $500,000 came from settlements for fisheries infringements.

The statement said MMR was able to collect the record revenue after a cheque for $5.8 million was issued to Ministry of Finance and Economic Management for the Cook Island’s share of dividends received under the US Fisheries Treaty.

MMR secretary Ben Ponia said this had enabled the ministry to exceed its revenue forecast of $8.9 million by almost $5.5 million.

He said revenue trends were attributed to the growth of the purse seine fishery.

Last year’s income was mainly due to additional fishing days purchased bilaterally by the Korean-Kiribati fishing fleets.

The MMR statement said there were positive signs that purse seine revenues under the US Treaty could be maintained through the 300 fishing days to which the Cook Islands has committed annually over the next four years.

It added further partnerships were required if the Cook Islands was to maintain its annual 1250 fishing day quota for purse seining allocated by the Tuna Commission, also known as the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

Ponia said the ministry was well on track to collect at least $20 million in fisheries revenue a year. He said fisheries revenue was not “free or easy money,” adding the ministry must abide by strict regulations imposed by the treaty-based organisation, WCPFC, as well as its own laws in order to issue fishing licences and collect revenues.

“It’s a lot of hard work and an exceptional result considering the limited budget and resources we have. Many of our staff are involved in managing fisheries both in Rarotonga, and the Pa Enua,” Ponia said.

“In addition, MMR employs staff at its field office in American Samoa and fisheries observers based in Samoa. I believe it’s a very satisfying result for all staff involved.”

Ponia also hailed officers from the Cook Islands Police Maritime Division and the patrol boat Te Kukupa. He said they had played a vital surveillance and enforcement role.

“MMR is now generating significant amounts of revenue, approaching $30 million in the past two years alone. Our satisfaction in this result comes from knowing that we are making a very real contribution towards the economic and social wellbeing of our people, both for today and in helping shape our future for tomorrow.”

Earlier, the ministry had predicted it could collect as much as $15m in annual revenues but the statement said, high exchange rate for the New Zealand dollar eroded the final amount received. The industry started with a modest $147, 357 in revenue in 2005 and took a huge leap in 2014 when it collected $12.65 million, compared with $5.6 million generated in 2013.

Cook Islands News
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