The 18 page document outlines new management measures for the longline fishery, including catch limits under a proposed Quota Management System (QMS).
The longline catch of tuna such as albacore, bigeye, skipjack, yellowfin, Pacific Bluefin, billfish, and other large pelagic species such as mahi mahi, will be managed under the plan.
The purpose of the Fishery Plan is to provide ecologically sustainable development and establish an effective, beneficial and enforceable management structure for the large pelagic longline fishery in the Cook Islands EEZ (exclusive economic zone).
Senior Fisheries Officer Georgia Langdon says following public comment, the next step is to assess the feedback and consider further changes to the plan.
“After this step, MMR can then progress with passing both the Management Plan and Draft Regulations through the relevant formal approval steps,” she says.
Langdon says the ministry is grateful for the support it has received in developing the Fisheries Plan, in particular the assistance of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
“The Fisheries Plan reinforces our belief that we need to adopt a catch-based system and limits that link to the Tokelau Agreement.”
In October, the Cook Islands, along with other FFA member countries, developed the historic tuna fishery pact which will set regional limits on tuna catch.
The Cook Islands is set to sign on to the Tokelau Arrangement for the Management of the South Pacific Longline Fishery following the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting next month.
In recent months MMR has held stakeholder consultations on the proposed limits on albacore and bigeye tuna catch under the QMS that it plans to introduce by 2016.
Under the QMS, the total allowable catch (TAC) of albacore will be 9750 metric tonnes (mt) per calendar year.
A total allowable commercial catch (TACC) of 9698 mt would be imposed, allowing for the remainder of the TAC to be used up by other vessels that are permitted to fish inside the 12 nautical mile zone, artisanal fishers, purse seiners, sports charters and other commercial offshore activities.
The annual TAC of bigeye tuna will be 3500 mt a year, including a TACC of 2500 mt.
Under the QMS, the proposed cost of quota is $250 per mt of albacore and $250 per mt of bigeye tuna, which can be amended from time to time.