23 Sep 2016

Call in Cooks for new fisheries' licensing regime

8:24 am on 23 September 2016

The Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce is calling for changes in the way the country hands out fishing licences.

The president Stephen Lyon says the present foreign fishing vessels' "one man" licensing regime is weak and open to abuse by the one person who has exclusive power to sign off - the Minister of Marine Resources.

Mr Lyon says that's got to change if the country is to have a more accountable system, which cannot be abused for personal gain.

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Photo: CI Chamber of Commerce

It's widely believed that the recent conviction of the former minister Teina Bishop for corruption could have been avoided had there been stricter licensing controls.

Bishop was convicted of receiving a monetary bribe in exchange for issuing eight foreign fishing licences to the Luen Thai Fishing Company.

Mr Lyon says the current legislation and a proposed new bill fail to address these concerns, leaving the country vulnerable to more corruption in fisheries' licensing.

One recommendation is that applications be considered by a statutory board made up of government officials and the private sector with the necessary skills and experience, and Mr Lyon backs this.