24 March 2017
Te Ipukarea Society (TIS) has welcomed Cabinet’s decision to establish a 50 nautical mile exclusion zone around the Cook Islands for the Marae Moana marine park. Cabinet on Tuesday unanimously decided on the size of the buffer zone which excludes foreign commercial fishing and seabed mining.
TIS technical director Kelvin Passfield said they were “very pleased” with Cabinet’s decision to extend the exclusion zones for foreign fishing out to 50 nautical miles. He said they have been working with the Marae Moana Establishment Trust, the Aronga Mana and the people of the various islands to get some protection zones in order to provide significant conservation benefits for the Cook Islands. “We believe the 50 mile closure is a good compromise between what many of the people from the Pa Enua have asked for (100 miles) and the preference of the Secretary for Marine Resources for just a 24 mile closure,” Passfield said. “The 50 mile closure should also increase the catches for local fishermen, as the fish which will not be getting caught in the closed zones will be able to migrate freely, including swimming closer to our islands for the local fishermen to catch. “We would also like to acknowledge the Kaumaiti To’u Travel Ariki, and the Aronga Mana from Pukapuka, as well as Jacqui Evans and Kevin Iro from the Marae Moana Establishment Trust, for their tireless efforts in achieving this fantastic result.” Passfield said they were now looking forward to the Parliament sitting and the passing of these decisions into law.
He said they were also looking forward to work on mapping out the boundaries correctly so the foreign boats know where they can and cannot fish. Meanwhile Passfield said despite Government’s favourable decision in their bid to conserve the marine resources for Cook Islands need, they would continue their protest against purse seine fishing and other controversial issues. “While the closure is a good thing for marine conservation, and we applaud Cabinet for taking the decision to increase closed zones to 50 miles, our issue with purse seining remains,” he said. “The purse seiners use drifting fish aggregation devices to aggregate the different species of tuna, and this increases the catch of juvenile bigeye tuna, which are overfished. “We will continue our campaign against purse seine fishing using drifting FADs.” by Rashneel Kumar, Cook Islands News