26 Jul 2005

Cook Islands government to explore options for fishing industry

3:22 pm on 26 July 2005

The Cook Islands is looking at ways to keep its fishing industry going after a Taiwanese fishing company, Gilontas, announced that it's likely to pull its fleet out of the country.

The owner of Cook Islands Fish Exports, Brett Porter, says this will leave only eight longline boats to fish the 2.2 million square kilometres of fishing grounds if the five from Gilontas pull out.

Mr Porter says the Taiwanese company, which had planned on offloading its catch to his fish processing plant, has found the costs of operating the boats so far from their home bases, too high.

He says it will also have an impact on his plant because it's been designed to handle the processing from 30 to 40 boats, not just half a dozen.

"We're sitting down now and working out what our options are. And, certainly, one of the options is to close. That's the last option we're going to explore. I've notified government that at the end of this season, there is a prospect that we will not be operating next season."

Mr Porter says the government and Marine Resources are talking to regional bodies about what happens now, and how they can keep the fishery open.