27 Apr 2015

Cooks Government says FAD ban 'in place'

7:25 pm on 27 April 2015

The Cooks Islands Government has defended its fishing policies following a protest and march against the use of fish aggregation devices.

A net filled with skipjack tuna coming out of the hold of a purse seine fishing vessel anchored in the Marshall Islands as it off-loads the fish to a mothership for transfer to Asian canneries.

A net filled with skipjack tuna coming out of the hold of a purse seine fishing vessel Photo: AFP

Kelvin Passfield, from the environmental NGO Te Ipukarea Society, says a huge amount of juvenile fish is being killed off, and the government is ignoring the calls for conservation.

But the secretary of the Ministry of Marine Resources, Ben Ponia, says that's not true, and the government is implementing a ban.

"We are taking measures. Currently we are implementing a four-month FAD closure, so for four months of the year, FADs are not allowed to be deployed by purse seine fishing vessels," he says.

"That's just one example of some of the measures that are taking place. We are trying to reduce the amount of catches of the bigeye longline fisheries to also bring down the overall impact of the mortality of those stocks."

Ben Ponia says the Cook Islands fishery is a small player, and there's a danger of demonising fishing, which would threaten local markets and could limit the role the country can play in the Pacific.