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Cooks join Pacific plan to control albacore fishery

Friday October 24, 2014 Written by Published in Environment
Senior Fisheries Officer Georgia Langdon, currently representing the Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources at a fisheries meeting in Honiara. 14102306, 07 Senior Fisheries Officer Georgia Langdon, currently representing the Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources at a fisheries meeting in Honiara. 14102306, 07

The Cook Islands will support an agreement designed to give Pacific nations more control over the region’s albacore tuna fishery says MMR Secretary Ben Ponia.

Senior Fisheries Officer Georgia Langdon is in the Solomon Islands representing the Cook Islands at a Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) subcommittee meeting, where a number of Pacific nations reached the agreement on the joint-conservation measures earlier in the week.
 Known as the Tokelau Agreement, it is expected to set catch limits in an area covering millions of square kilometres of Ocean – from the Cooks to the Solomon Islands.
 “The Cook Islands accounts for eight per cent of the total albacore longline catches, so our endorsement of the Tokelau Arrangement does carry significant weight,” Ponia wrote in an email.
“This is part of a strategy for Pacific islands to take control over the albacore longline fishery. The objective is to adopt a catch limit in EEZs which combined with the high seas catches, will stay within the sustainable levels for fishing.”
The Agreement will come into effect as it is signed by various parties, and could also include both FFA and non-FFA nations such as New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Vanuatu, French Polynesia, and American Samoa.
Ponia said the agreement will be a “stepping stone” towards producing a solid conservation measure for albacore in Pacific nation EEZ’s and the high seas - expected to be adopted at the upcoming Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Samoa in December.
In an opening speech at the Honiara meeting, FFA Director General James Movick said Pacific nations have come to a consensus on the issues facing the region’s albacore.
“You are all agreed on what the problems are. One is that the stock is depleted below the level that can sustain economically efficient catch rates. The other is that this South Pacific fishery is still very much dominated by fishing companies from the North Pacific Rim,” said Movick.
Movick had pointed remarks companies from the distant water fishing nations, saying they “... do not exactly have a great deal of interest in maintaining the natural resources of the Pacific Islands for future generations.”
In addition to conservation, Movick said measures such as the Tokelau agreement will also help Pacific nations establish greater economic control over the resource.
Secretary Ponia said MMR’s efforts to develop a quota management system and set limits for catching albacore tuna fits in with the regional agreement
“The Cook Islands will probably be among the first country to control its limits under the Tokelau arrangement. Many members have nominated their catch limits but do not have the ability to enforce their limits,” he said.
Ponia said he expects the Government to sign onto the agreement after the adoption of the new quota regulations.

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