The first stage of negotiations involving a suggested Sustainable Fishing Partnership Agreement (SFPA) between the Cook Islands and the European Union has been held on the Island of Raratonga.
The EU hopes to obtain tuna fishing rights for 4 tuna purse seiners. Currently within the WCPO EU seiners are only allowed to fish tuna in the waters of Kiribati and on the high seas.
An agreement with the Cook Islands, according to the European Commission will allow the EU to expand its network of tuna agreements in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) with four purse seiners, in an area where 50 percent of the global tuna catch is taken. Since the Cook Islands have recently become an associated member of the PNA, a deal with the Cooks could have EU seiners obtain access to all the EEZ’s of all 8 PNA member countries. The Cook Islands will receive a financial contribution for opening this back door for the European fleet into PNA waters.
The European Commission outlined that the discussions were held in a positive, open and constructive atmosphere, and progress was achieved in the production of a draft text for both SFPA and a Fisheries Protocol. The Commission stated that the draft text from the negotiations will now be tabled to the Cook Islands Cabinet of Ministers for its final consideration. A Cook Islands Delegation will travel to Brussels during the second week of September 2013 to continue the discussions, and if mutually agreed to initial the Agreement and its Protocol.
The 8 PNA member countries are critically following the negotiations, and already critical remarks have been heard about the Cook Islands conduct. The general feeling is that the EU is trying to increase its industry presence and influence within the PNA and the WCPO. Any fishing of EU seiners within the PNA or Cook waters would require these seiners to commit to the VDS (Vessel Day Scheme).
In addition to the final contribution for the access to the waters, the EU Commission stated that an additional specific amount will be granted to support the implementation of Cook Islands sectoral fisheries policy and maritime policy.
The EU says it wants to initiate a dialogue on fisheries governance, encourage sustainable and responsible fishing, and to cooperate in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
TIS is very concerned at this proposal and is adamant their will need to be open and transparent dialogue and consultation. TIS and other interested parties wanting to protect our fish and fishing in the Cook Islands want to see the end and not the continuation of Purse Seine fishing in the Pacific.