Court application to stop purse seiners in Cooks
The Cook Islands High Court is set to hear an application which aims to stop the government from allowing more purse seine boats to fish in its waters.
The Cook Islands High Court is set to hear an application which aims to stop the government from allowing more purse seiners fishing in its waters.
About 4,000 people have signed a petition against the government's latest deal with the European Union, which would allow four Spanish vessels to fish in Cook Islands waters for at least eight years.
The draft agreement allows for the netting of tuna and tuna-like species, an annual quota of 7,000 tonnes to be exceeded and six months of experimental fishing a year.
Mary Baines reports.
A Rarotonga businessman, William Framhein, has lodged an application to the High Court for a judicial review of the deal. He says the application is listed to be heard next Friday, but the government has a right of reply which could mean the hearing is pushed back.
WILLIAM FRAMHEIN: "We are seeking relief to have these draft documents quashed, or any documents associated with the draft agreement and protocol between the Cook Islands government and the European Union. In excess of 4,000 people have signed the petition and there is also an absence of customary law."
The Cook Islands already has agreements with two Korean based purse seine fishing companies, and a New Zealand company.The government says the deal with the European Union will earn the Cook Islands 13 million US dollars - that's nearly 12 and a half thousand US dollars for every day one of the vessels fishes there.But a One Cook Islands MP, George Maggie Angene, says no amount of money would make the agreement worthwhile.
GEORGE MAGGIE ANGENE: "It won't take long for them to use that money. But the fish will be gone forever, we won't see them again. I can guarantee that. The government is not honest to the people. I will keep doing it, keep pushing not to take the fish out of our country. And I will say a big no to Henry Puna and his government."
He says it is not fair that the public was never consulted on the deal.
GEORGE MAGGIE ANGENE: "They just go ahead, this government, or this cabinet, to say they agree with the Spanish to take our fish from our ocean. They never come back, the government never comes back to the people and have a meeting with the people and ask the people what they think."
A Rarotonga resident, Doreen Boggs, says thousands have signed the petition against the deal and taken to the streets to protest.But she says many feel as though they are not being listened to by the government.
DOREEN BOGGS: "We feel that they (the government) are doing things behind the doors, closed doors, by agreeing this. We don't know. We know there was a draft that went out and we feel that they aren't being transparent about what's really going on with this deal. I think the people is, it's not so much the money, it's what is going to be left behind for our children, for our future generations, that's the main concern for our people."
It is not known when the agreement will be finalised between the European Union and the Cook Islands, but both parliaments must ratify the deal first.The government is yet to explain what the experimental fishing will include.The Ministry of Marine Resources secretary, Ben Ponia, was not available for comment.
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