22 Jan 2013

Opposition says Cook Island government contemplating purse seine licences

3:17 pm on 22 January 2013

The Cook Islands opposition leader Wilkie Rasmussen says while the government may not have issued a purse seine license yet, it appears to be considering it.

16 purse sein vessels that fish in the Cook Islands belong to a longstanding treaty signed in 1984 with the United States which gives them free right of entry to fish in any Pacific Islands waters.

The Marine Resources Minister Teina Bishop says outside of the US treaty, the government has not issued any purse seining licence.

But Mr Rasmussen says he's been informed that one was approved, without public consultation.

"Because of some early opposition I was advised it had been put on hold. I have written to the minister to say to him that they should cancel those licences but it appears it is still sitting on the table, in other words they might be waiting for the right price."

Wilkie Rasmussen says there have been a number of reports from local fishermen that tuna stocks are notably lower than what they were in previous years.