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Cook Islands to work with other Pacific Island nations to sustainably use fisheries

Tuesday 11 July 2023 | Written by Joanne Holden | Published in Economy, National

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Cook Islands to work with other Pacific Island nations to sustainably use fisheries
Cook Islands Associate Minister Tingika Elikana, second from right, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of the country, to work with other Pacific Island nations to sustainably use 23071008

The Cook Islands has teamed up with five other Pacific Island nations to develop a framework for the sustainable use of a “key” fishery.

The South Pacific Group (SPG) – comprising the Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu – have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work together in managing and maximising the benefits of oceanic fishery resources.

“SPG’s immediate area of interest is the management of the southern longline fishery, with a particular focus on South Pacific albacore tuna,” the SPG said in a statement.

“This fishery stretches across the exclusive economic zones of SPG members, who work with the broader Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) membership on proposals to improve the management of albacore within the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).”

South Pacific albacore tuna made up about 65 per cent of the fish caught by Cook Islands vessels operating in the longline fishery, according to the Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resource’s most recent Offshore Fisheries Report from 2017.

More than 3500 metric tonnes of albacore were hooked by 10 Cook Islands vessels that year, the report stated.

The SPG said the MOU regarding the “key fishery in the region” was supported by the South Pacific Group Strategy 2023-28, which sought to “ensure sustainability, improved economic and social benefits, and good governance in the South Pacific tuna fisheries”.

Alongside Australia, the SPG have tabled a proposal for an interim target reference point for South Pacific albacore, aimed at setting a guideline for an optimal harvest which takes ecological and socio-economic concerns into account.

The proposal will be considered at this year’s WCPFC meetings.

“The SPG has also developed a flexible zone-based management agreement for the South Pacific albacore fishery, that will bring additional benefits to participating countries when it is adopted and implemented,” the group said.

“The SPG is also working collaboratively to maximise the benefits in purse-seine fisheries management, explore shared services in support of oceanic fisheries management, and to develop collective positions and strategies for advocating interests at regional meetings of the FFA, WCPFC, and other multilateral arrangements.”

SPG members signed the MOU on the sidelines of the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Committee Ministerial meeting, which took place in Majuro, Marshall Islands from July 3 to 6.

The Cook Islands was represented at the meeting by Associate Minister Tingika Elikana.