The high-tech centre allows MMR to monitor Cook Islands-flagged vessels around the world and invest resources in combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, as well as playing a leading role in sub-regional fisheries surveillance and maritime security.
“We can be proud in our efforts as a large ocean state to demonstrate leadership in ocean stewardship and ensuring justice and peace in our Moana Nui a Kiva,” said the PM.
Addressing a gathering of cabinet ministers, ministry heads, senior officials and other distinguished guests, he also spoke proudly of the Cook Islands’ previous ocean-based achievements.
“Our marae moana legislation sets the bar globally for the protection of our ocean and environmental integrity,” he said, adding that the Cook Islands was “amongst the first of our Pacific nations to establish fishing quotas to ensure our economic resources are being managed sustainably”.
PM Puna also praised the work of police patrol boat Te Kukupa, labelling it “the best patrol boat in the Pacific in terms of the patrol work that it does”.
He then went on to acknowledge and expand on recent events surrounding the Ecuadorean vessel Nino Maravilla, which arrived in Aitutaki last month (for the full story see p1).
“Let’s not be complacent,” he said. “We might live in a peaceful, beautiful, God-loving country, but there are people out there who think otherwise, and act otherwise, so we need to be aware of these challenges.”
Later, guests were taken on a tour of the facility, with MMR staff describing the workings of the centre and explaining how it utilises various technologies to gather, analyse and act on vast quantities of data and information. Speaking later to CINews, MMR head Ben Ponia revealed that one of the centre’s main limitations is a lack of internet band width, saying it was a “huge cost” to the ministry. “We are right at the maximum, 150GB a month and pushing,” he said.
“We are looking at some solutions, we are in discussions, but it is definitely one of the limitations as to how far we can go.
“One of the difficulties is that because the internet feed is not stable, it often drops out, and a lot of time is spent logging back in and pulling data back over. These are some of the frustrations with the quality of our internet feed.”
Ponia said that there had been “quite an investment” towards establishing the new centre, with the “tipping point” being $150,000 made available under the European Union-Cook Islands Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement.
“We’re always trying to send out the message that we try our best, and I think this is an example of us stepping forward,” said Ponia.
“We give assurances that our resources are being sustainably managed, and from that we reach out and we create revenue – we collected almost $19million of revenue for the country last year.
“So we know we have the balance of our management and the revenue, and I think the public want to know that our commitment to marae moana is real, and systems like this are actually at the frontline of that.”