11 Jan 2016

Cooks emails suggest purse seine lobbying

12:33 pm on 11 January 2016
Cook Islanders march to decry the Prime Minister Henry Puna and his government's deal with the European Union on purse seine fishing.

Cook Islanders march to decry the Prime Minister Henry Puna and his government's deal with the European Union on purse seine fishing. Photo: Flo Syme Buchanan

Leaked emails suggest the Cook Islands ministry of marine resources is planning a spending spree in an attempt to woo support from fishermen for a purse seining agreement with the European Union.

US$196,000 has been set aside for the exercise, which includes ministry visits to the northern islands for presentations about purse seining, to correct what it calls 'misinformation'.

Each of the five northern islands will also get what the ministry secretary, Ben Ponia, in the emails calls US$6,500 'gifts' for fishing clubs, which will decide how it is spent.

The email, to senior ministry staff and fishing club presidents, also suggests that a yet-to-be-determined fuel subsidy for the northern islands could be paid through the EU purse seine agreement.

The potential EU deal has been contentious, with several protest marches against it and an environmental group seeking an injunction against the deal being signed.

An opposition politician, Tamaiva Tuavera, says the ministry strategy is a blatant attempt to bribe support from the northern islands for a highly unpopular plan.

A protest against purse seine fishing in Rarotonga, Cook Islands in April 2015

A protest against purse seine fishing in Rarotonga, Cook Islands in April 2015 Photo: Phillipa Webb / Cook Islands News

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