3 Feb 2003

Senior Cook Islands politician says illegal fishing should prompt a strong response

8:10 am on 3 February 2003

The former Cook Islands deputy Prime Minister, Sir Geoffrey Henry, says the country should come down hard on illegal fishing in the country's exclusive economic zone.

Sir Geoffrey's comments follow the withdrawl of charges against 19 crew memebers of a Taiwanese fishing vessel caught poaching in Cook Island waters last December.

Each of the crew members had been charged with fishing without a license.

Instructions to withdraw the charges were given by the new deputy Prime Minister, Dr Terepai Maoate.

Sir Geoffrey says while the 19 crew may not have had as much control over the boat as the captain, they were the ones who hauled in the fish.

He says a clear message should be sent to all poachers, that if they steal from one of the country's most valuable resources they can expect to face the full force of the law.