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Tuesday 15 March 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional


Search ends for missing Cook Islands fishermen

Cook Island Police have discontinued their search for a pair of fisherman now missing for nine days.

On 6 March Toru Miri and Tekou Tepene went fishing in the dangerous Rutaki Passage, and never returned.

It is understood the pair were planning to net fish in the area, despite it being signposted to discourage people from entering it.

Cable laying vessel, SubCom Reliance, in position off Rutaki passage, Rarotonga, Cook Islands before commencing the shore landing of the Manatua One Polynesia fibreoptic cable.
A cable ship off the Rutaki passage. Photo: Cook Islands government

Police spokesperson Trevor Pitt said, "since last wednesday the police and volunteer groups have conducted quite extensive searches including the lagoon area where they were fishing."

He said,"this is most likely a tragedy and will be another life lesson for people in the community."

The Rutaki Passage is a dangerous area, with a history of people being swept away or drowned.

A fisherman of 40 years, Steven Kavana warned people to stay clear of the area.

"If you are not a fisherman do not go in that area. The current can change quickly, if you are caught in it you have to swim out with the current, not fight it. It will be very hard to find their bodies. It is a dangerous area."

He said it was a tragedy for the entire community. One of the men was considered an experienced fisherman, although the other was not.

Police were finalising an incident report to be referred to the Coroner.