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Two sides to purse seining story, says PM

Thursday April 23, 2015 Written by Published in Politics
Prime Minister Henry Puna. Prime Minister Henry Puna.

Prime Minister Henry Puna has warned protestors that they should listen to both sides of the story on the growth of the Cook Islands’ controversial purse seine fishing industry before making their minds up on the issue.

But Te Ipukarea Society technical director Kelvin Passfield is hitting back, again asking for more science to back up the government’s claim that allocating 1,250 purse seine fishing days in the Cook Islands exclusive economic zone (EEZ) this year will not have a detrimental impact on tuna stocks.

When CINews asked Puna on Tuesday about Friday’s purse seine fishing protest, organised by a wide range of people in the community, he acknowledged their right to protest.

“We have freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and all sorts of freedoms in our country and I respect that. It’s our people’s right to do whatever they please, provided they do so within the limits of the law.” 

“However if I can say this: I am a bit concerned with the one-sided promotion. For example, people are not aware that a large percentage of total fisheries in the Pacific take place in the Western Pacific. Truth is, only recently have the Cook Islands entered the picture.”

Puna said the other fact was that skipjack tuna only had a short lifespan of three or four years.

“After that they’re gone, they die. They also multiply like rabbits.”

Scientific information from the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency suggested that the Cook Islands could actually licence vessels to fish up to a certain limit in its waters without necessarily impacting on total stock in the region, said Puna.  

“The question I ask is, given this scientific information, is what do we do? Do we ban fishing all together and deprive our country of much-needed revenue from these resources that are not exclusive for us?” 

“My job as Prime Minister of this government is to ensure (that) wherever we can within sustainable limits, that we do have access to these resources. Because the truth is, if we don’t, other Pacific countries are taking them.” 

The establishment of the Marae Moana project, with its 50-mile no fishing zones, would help to curb the impacts of international fishing vessels on the Cook Islands EEZ, he said.   

“It seems like a very convenient excuse for people to say that because of purse seine fishing there’s less fish available for the local fishermen. I don’t really agree with that.” 

“We haven’t even researched or examined the impact of climate change on our fisheries resources and we’ve taken the convenient excuse that has not been proven in any way, shape or form.”

Passfield said he had asked Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) secretary Ben Ponia through letters to CINews to provide more scientific evidence to support the growth of the industry. However, he had received no response. 

The scientific evidence did not justify the amount of by-catch which was known to be gathered by the purse seining industry’s the use of fish aggregated devices (FADs), he said.

Support for Friday’s protest was gaining traction, he said.

“People are stopping me in the street and saying thanks to Te Ipukarea for helping, and that they will be there.” 

Meanwhile, Public Service Commissioner Russell Thomas has sent an email to public servants warning them to be on their best behaviour at the protest.  

“Publicly criticising government policies in an official capacity is considered misconduct under the Government Code of Conduct Policy,” Thomas wrote.

“Therefore, public servants planning to participate in the protest march must do so as an individual and not as an official or representative of the Ministry or Agency they work for.” 

“The policy also prohibits the use of government resources to support this action in any way.” 

3 comments

  • Comment Link Exham Monday, 27 April 2015 20:09 posted by Exham

    I do believe we should be able to access our resources like Mr Puna said,but within the limits. I dont think we really know whats been happening out in our oceans for the past 30 or 50 yrs.We just depend on NZ to flyover once in a blue moon on their Orion,Who else has been in our waters,Japanese,Tawanese,Chinese,Russians, or other Pacific Nations ??.Yes much needed revenue is what our country needs from these resources, our own resources, It just has to be controlled at the utmost respect..Moving forward is a good thing, by sitting down and butting a few heads together,surely something meitaki will be born..

  • Comment Link Keith Koekoe Saturday, 25 April 2015 09:40 posted by Keith Koekoe

    Mr Puna needs to understand that he DOES NOT preceed VISION. Vision will always outlast him and his job. The protesters exist to protect the vision which Mr Puna has no idea what it is. The resources in Gods ocean is there to be managed for the overall design of Gods purpose for our existence as Cook Islanders. We exist for a purpose and first world or second world ignorance cannot and must not be allowed to dictate. They have failed miserably. Their oceans are depleted. Mr Punas admission to listen to them is handing them the power to dictate over our management of Gods resources in the Cooks. Vision is not meant for Mr Puna. Vision flows on to the next generation and he must be a conduit for them. Our future Cook Islanders. Who is smarter? Mr Puna, first and second world nations, third world nation who managers Gods resources or God? I say God is smarter. It's our turn as a third world nation to teach them a lesson. How to manage in a sustained way. Keep them and their ignorance of our vision out. Our vision is unique and exclusive. That is the only way to protect our resources and that is to not fall into their COMMON ways of destruction. They have a history of depleting resources with no proven manageable portfolio. Nothing. Mr Puna is blind. He is only thinking short term.

  • Comment Link Rob Thursday, 23 April 2015 21:54 posted by Rob

    If there is a scientific information were are they? The people has the right to know what is the government doing, under the freedom of information Act.