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New Te Vaka Toa agreement signed

Friday July 22, 2011 Written by Published in National

The Cook Islands is closer than ever before to its Pacific neighbours in terms of fisheries management.

Minister for marine resources Teina Bishop has signed a subsidiary arrangement to the Niue Treaty on Fisheries Surveillance and Law Enforcement.

Ministers from New Zealand, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau and Tonga have also signed the new agreement, called the Te Vaka Toa Arrangement.

It is the latest step in establishing closer fisheries cooperation between the Pacific countries which have aligned under the sub-regional banner known as Te Vaka Moana.

The new arrangement should strengthen sub-regional efforts to improve the management of fisheries resources, gen- erating greater economic benefit.

It is also intended to provide a new vehicle for countries to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which is estimated to cost the Pacific up to $400 million in lost revenue each year.

Through the Te Vaka Toa agreement there will be greater sharing of resources, expertise and information.

It encourages cooperation in the use of ports and monitoring of fisheries, including in the various countrys exclusive economic zones.

The arrangement also complements efforts to develop a Pacific-wide Niue Treaty subsidiary agreement.

Bishop says the vaka is highly symbolic to Cook Islanders.

This vaka may now come in many forms including our vessel satellite monitoring system, or even the helicopter from the new HMSNZ Otago patrol vessel.

New Zealander Mathew Hooper chairs Te Vaka Moana and says each participant country has something to contribute to others.

For example Cook Islands fisheries officers have recently provided New Zealand with training in high seas boarding and compliance.

Fisheries and patrol boat surveillance officials from Te Vaka Moana countries will meet in August at the Royal New Zealand Airforce base in Whenuapai with its quadrilateral defence partners Australia, New Zealand, the United States and France to discuss specific arrangements of the Te Vaka Toa agreement.

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