Those Opposed To Purse Seine Deal In Cook Islands Encouraged To Make Voices Heard

Government holding public meeting about European Union agreement

By Florence Syme-Buchanan 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Nov. 29, 2016) – Bring your mana as a Cook Islander to the fore and tell the European Union and the Spanish: our country doesn’t want a purse seining agreement with them or Spain’s monster fishing boats harvesting our waters.

That’s the message the Aronga Mana (traditional leaders) are sending to all fishermen, business people, landowners and concerned citizens in readiness for tonight’s public meeting organised by the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR).

Manavaroa Mataiapo Tutara Phillip Nicholas says the Aronga Mana are urging the public to be at a European Union and Spanish fishing industry public presentation tonight to show solidarity against the controversial purse seining agreement the government has entered into with the European Union.

The presentation, organised by MMR, will be held at 5.30pm at the New Hope Church in Parekura.

It will feature European Union and Spanish purse seining industry representatives talking on “the fisheries policy” and “fisheries improvement programme”, states the public notice issued by MMR.

Manavaroa and Apai Mataiapo Komona William Framhein say a clear message will be made at the meeting to the EU and representatives of the Organization of Associated Producers of Large Tuna Freezers (OPAGAC): “You are not welcome here, our people oppose purse seining and the European Union agreement.”

The traditional leaders say the level of support for the Aronga Mana stance opposing the EU agreement and purse seining is widespread and gaining momentum on social media. Of about 300 Aronga Mana on Rarotonga alone, just five individuals aren’t in favour of the majority stance, says Apai.

“We will be present, we will be peaceful, but we will also be firm and the message will be loud and clear: these European Union and Spanish fishing industry reps need to listen to our people, we don’t want them here plundering our most important resource.”

The traditional leaders say the EU and OPAGAC representatives should have been talking to the Cook Islands people and Aronga Mana years ago, “at the very start of all this.”

“Now it’s too late: 4200 people of voting age have said no in a petition. We have a residential population of around 13,000. That alone should make them rethink their intentions,” says Apai.

Tonight’s message to the EU and Spanish companies from the Aronga Mana is likely to attract international media attention, with traditional leaders standing up to the powerful European Union and mega-rich Spanish fishing companies.

Four Ariki residing overseas have also lent support to the anti-purse seining position here and getting rid of the EU agreement.

Auckland-based broadcaster Tauraki Rongo says there is strong support from Pa Ariki, Numangatini Ariki, Parau Ariki and Taroro Ariki and the wider community. Rongo says support for the combined Aronga Mana/Te Ipukarea Society cause is “growing by the day”.

According to the Fish Information & Services website, OPAGAC comprises five Spanish companies and its headquarters are based in Madrid.

The companies are Atunera Dularra SL, Albacora SA, Cia Europa de Tunidos, Nicra 7 SL and Petusa Group. OPAGAC operates a total of 13 purse seining vessels.

Two of the world’s largest purse seining factory ships that could be coming to fish in Cook Islands waters are Albatun Tres and Albacora Uno, both owned by OPAGAC member Albacora SA.

Two other 84 metre purse seiners, Rosita C and Aurora B owned by OPAGAC member company Atunera Dularra SL, are also likely to operate in Cook Islands waters.   

Cook Islands News
Copyright © 2016 Cook Islands News. All Rights Reserved

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Corrections:image does not depict a skipjack tuna purse seiner. OPAGAC has 40 vessels. Article not fact checked by publication. Written by an anti-purse seine campaigner. Does not accurately describe who or how many are opposed to purse seining (or just EU agreement). No reports by publication on content of meeting as reporters did not cover it.

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