HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 581: 14 September 2011

Report Back on Marine Resources Bilateral Meetings at Pacific Islands Forum

Bilateral meeting with Spain.
The Cook Islands delegation led by Hon Minister Bishop met with the Spanish Ambassador to Australia and the Spanish Ambassador to New Zealand at the recent Pacific Islands Forum held in New Zealand.
The Ambassadors indicated the interest of Spain to “return” to Pacific, noting that Spain as a seafaring nation once had strong historical links to the region. The Ambassador highlighted some of the similarities that Spain has with the Cook Islands – for example as a fishing nation and one with a strong tourism economy. The Ambassador said he took note that the Cook Islands would be the next host of the Forum and hoped that perhaps in its role as Chair that it would help facilitate Forum processes to assist Spain’s interests.
Minister Bishop thanked the Spanish Ambassador for his address and interest in the Cook Islands. The Minister indicated that fisheries was an important agenda the Secretary of Marine Resources explained that it was important to acknowledge that Spanish fleets are already present on the southern high seas below the Cook Islands, fishing for swordfish.
As a coastal state and one that intended to conduct exploratory fishing it was therefore prudent to engage with each other to extent possible to ensure that the swordfish stocks were not being overfished and sustainably managed.
It was noted that some collaboration with Spain has begun on swordfish tagging research and that it would be of shared interest to expand this program further.
The Cook Islands also requested the Spanish government to assist to the extent possible in enabling the Cook Islands to achieve EU market accreditation so that its fisheries products could be exported to the EU in the future. At present the swordfish being caught by Spanish fleets are offloaded in Papeete.
The Spanish Ambassador responded favorably and asked that the Cook Islands put any request in writing so that his government could assist.
Bilateral meeting with the U.S.
The Cook Islands delegation led by Hon Minister Bishop met with head of the U.S delegation (approximately 60 persons) - Daniel Clune, Deputy Assistant Secretary, State Department and Rear Admiral Charles Ray, Head of the US Coast.
The Deputy Assistant Secretary began by informing the Cook Islands that the US was releasing $21 million dollars of funding for climate change adaptation measures and hoped that the Cook Islands would be beneficiaries of these monies. He also informed the delegation that USAID was returning to the Pacific and would be based out of Papua New Guinea.
Minister Bishop thanked the Deputy Assistant Secretary for these positive developments.
The Cook Islands Secretary of Foreign Affairs noted that the East West Centre no longer had the presence that it once enjoyed and urged the State department to address this. He noted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues in its efforts to seek diplomatic recognition by the U.S.
There followed a lengthy discussion on fisheries surveillance and cooperation. The Cook Islands Secretary of Marine Resources pointed out that the Cook Islands EEZ shares a border with the U.S (American Samoa) and France (French Polynesia) and had defense arrangements with Australia and New Zealand. It is highly reliant on the monitoring and surveillance assets of these four countries.
It was noted that there has been a spike in joint sea surveillance operations and ship rider placements onboard the U.S Coastguard vessels. More sea patrols were encouraged. Enhanced monitoring of the northern High Seas area was encouraged.
The U.S Coastguard trainers had also provided useful tips and information on how to conduct boarding and inspection of Asian fishing vessels such as interpreting their numerical system for log sheets.
It was noted that the Cook Islands fishery is currently focused on albacore tuna which is being offloaded into Pago Pago. It was pointed out that the Cook Islands has a vested interest in maintaining the Pago Pago cannery and processing facilities and that the Cook Islands government was engaging directly with the key fishing, processing and marketing companies to ensure the viability and greater value can be extracted from its albacore stocks.
Rear Admiral replied that the U.S was deeply aware of the shared concerns that the Cook Islands had about illegal fishing and that it recognized that the Coast Guard has an inherent duty and role in supporting the efforts and wishes of the Cook Islands in protecting its fish stocks and laws.

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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