Ping Tai Rong, a fishing company with longline fishing vessels, wants to transship fish from ship to ship outside the reef at Penrhyn Island, because of its proximity to their tuna fishing grounds.
But the Ministry of Marine Resources, after initially pushing for the proposal, now says it’s not proceeding because Penrhyn locals don’t agree.
The transshipment was meant to happen in early August – that window has now closed and the fishing season is nearly over.
The ministry had said the proposal would bring approximately $14,000 per shipment to the Island government – equivalent to $10 per tonne of tuna. One shipping boat alone catches 70 tonnes of fish.
Former Penrhyn MP Wilkie Rasmussen, a lawyer representing a group of locals, said he did not believe government had shelved the transshipment proposal at the northern group island.
Maru said the Ministry had told Rasmussen repeatedly that the transshipment would not go ahead.
Rasmussen, however, said inconsistencies in the responses to the Island government were raising suspicions. “Something very peculiar is going on here. I would be happy if Ministry of Marine Resources does not proceed with it and I will seek to have discussions with Pamela Maru and with others.”
Rasmussen said the confusion was proof of how isolated communities were treated. “If it is not going ahead, then the ministry needs to advise the Penrhyn Island Council that there was a misunderstanding and they were misled into believing that this was going ahead within the very near future.”
On Tuesday, he said the Island government held a public meeting involving representatives from both villages, Omoka and Tetautua. The meeting agreed that the proposed transshipment toshould go ahead, with support from elderly residents, a local government official said.
But Maru said they were unable to garner a response from Penrhyn. And she said the ministry would not undertake activities at an island without the support of local government and the community.
She did say that the local government is consulting with the community to discuss the possibility of having transshipment activities take place at Penrhyn sometime in future, should the community support it.