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Letter: Time to reel in the potential

Monday 1 July 2024 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion

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Letter: Time to reel in the potential

Dear Editor, Barbara Hanchard’s opinion piece “Back to basics in offshore fisheries management” published in Cook Islands News June 25 edition is commendable.

It is good that we have knowledgeable people in the fisheries business in the Cook Islands and has a lot of experience in the industry. It is for Government or the public to use that knowledge to push our economy forward.

What is Government’s plan to develop our fishing industry? Where is our onshore fishing industry. Where are our freezers to hold fish caught from our nearly two million kilometres of EEZ.

Fifty-seventy years ago, we were stuck with agriculture and going nowhere. The last hope was the Mangaian pineapple industry which also collapsed and luckily tourism stepped up and without it where will we be?

It is dangerous for a country to have only one industry (tourism) to carry it. Agriculture seemed to have fallen behind and it seems Government have no plan to expand and develop other industries or economic activities which would help grow our economy. 

The result is the migration of our people to New Zealand and Australia and the vacuum filled by imports from Philippines, Indonesia, Fiji, etc. 

Fisheries is an obvious alternative. We have in my humble opinion taken the easier and cheapest way out by selling our fish in the ocean and collecting the money from fishing boats who will lie about their catches but we have no ability to check it.

The danger is pretty soon our ocean will be fished out and then what? Let’s not be dumb - fishing boats will lie about their catches and we will never be able to properly police it.

What are possible solutions?

1. Require all fish to be brought to Rarotonga before it is shipped out to their respective countries. That will stop the lying of how much they are catching.

2. We build a big freezer to house the fish so that fishing boats can just drop the fish here and we look after it for a fee. Borrow the money from the Chinese and see who comes up with cheque books - to build our freezers.

3. By doing this we are controlling the fish taken out of our EEZ and giving work for our people.

4. We can then look at developing our own fishing fleet - takes a long time but we are here for the long haul.

5. Look at what Tahiti is doing and we could work together with a ginormous EEZ. Tahiti has French backing and we should also work with our Kiwi friends to keep the balance.

For too long we have been lazy in giving our fish away and collecting fishing fees and we are being bribed and lied to with information about catches etc, etc.  The fishing companies know we cannot check their info and are happy to offer incentives for our people to stop looking too deep. 

I hope I am wrong - and if so, I duly apologise but public scrutiny is always a better way of keeping our public service on line.

In the end Government should spell out to the public a policy which will stop

giving away our fish for a fee and failing in the opportunity of developing

our own fishing industry offshore and onshore. Our EEZ is one of the greatest gifts that God gave us. We are the stewards of this God given asset so we have an obligation to manage it with integrity and generosity or God will take it away.

Next on line are the deep sea nodules.

Cicero

(Name and address supplied)

Thank you, Barbara, for your input. Your experience is invaluable, even if I may not agree with your conclusions. I assure you I was not being sarcastic when I invited younger qualified Cook Islanders to contribute. I wanted to avoid the preconception which your older generation of fisheries advisers has grown up with, that Cook Islanders should not get involved in deep sea fisheries. Your letter illustrates this view perfectly, and I believe it is both out of date and wrong. There are sound economic reasons why any government should be doing exactly what Tahiti is doing, and supporting locals to become involved in this fishery.

Reuben Tylor

Vaimaanga