Upset at Cook Islands' response to shark finning discovery
Cook Islands opposition party want to know why a Chinese vessel was let go despite the discovery of shark fins onboard.
The leader of the opposition Democratic Party in the Cook Islands says a decision by maritime officials to let go a Chinese-flagged longliner discovered with shark fins onboard reflects badly on the country.
Shark fishing is illegal in the Cook Islands as is the transport and possession of shark or shark parts.
He told Moera Tuilaepa-Taylor he wants maritime officials and the government to explain why the vessel's owners were not charged.
WILKIE RASMUSSEN: Well it's a bit of a letdown for the Cook Islands, we've got laws to protect sharks and we declared ourselves as a shark sanctuary and yet this happens, not very nice in fact.
MOERA TUILAEPA-TAYLOR: Have the Ministry of Marine Resources or the Maritime police said why no charges were laid?
WR: We are starting to piece the whole thing together, we believe it's more political rather than doing the right thing. what I mean by the right thing is they do have the right and authority to prosecute and in fact to confiscate the boat and bring it into harbour but they didn't do that. My understanding is that there has been some discussion between the government and certain interests or parties of interest here and some sort of facilitation was done to allow the boat to sail out of our waters without any implications.
MTT: Do you know how long the police held the boat?
WR: Well I don't really know but what came back and it's on public record now is that they were able to ascertain at least that there were no carcasses onboard on that boat, what I mean by that is no shark carcasses, there were a whole lot of shark fins and apparently that the finning might have taken place over sometime, and because of the amount shark fins they were able to say that the purpose of that vessel in there was purely to fin.
MTT: I see they have said eight kilograms of shark fins - is that how much you were told?
WR: No, I was told that there might have been more because shark fins are quite light when they dry up and most of these had been left in the sun to dry and there were several sacks of them that apparently were there and were visible to the people that saw what was on the boat.
The leader of the opposition Democratic Party in the Cook Islands, Wilkie Rasmussen.
The Ministry of Marine Resources says it will talk with Chinese authorities about the eight kilograms of shark fins found onboard the vessel, through the settlement processes within the Tuna Commission.
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