HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Artisanal and Game Charter Fishery Review
The Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR)is implementing a catch database called ARTMAN to collect information from artisanal fishers (i.e. small scale subsistence or commercial fishers) and gamecharter operators. This is modelled on the SPC database TUFTMAN used to manage the offshore fishery.With assistance from SPC the Cook Islands is now one of first countries in the Pacific to trial ARTMAN. Data collection began in 2012 and MMR fisheries staffs are reporting on catches from eleven islands.
One of the key objectives is to better understand the coastal fishery and to minimise the interactionwith the commercial fishing that operates outside the 12 nautical mile zone.
In this review theMMR presents a preliminary analysis of the dataset from selected islands of the Cook Islands. In particular we compare catches around Rarotonga toMangaia, Aitutaki and Rakahanga.
1. What is the catch and effort for Rarotonga and other islands?
Between January to August 2012 there was 5,500 hours of fishing and 73 metric tonnes of fish reported from the four islands reported in this survey (Table 1). Rarotonga’s raw data was raised 60% to account for non-reporting.
The catch per unit effort (CPUE) varies across the Cook Islands. The highest CPUE is Rakahanga where 22.4 kg per hour was caught compared to Aitutaki of 13.9 kg/hr, Rarotonga 5.7 kg/hr and the Mangaia of 4.1 kg/hr. There was a clear trend from of catch rates with the highest rates from Rakahanga in the northern latitude(10 degrees south) and declining as fishing moved south to Mangaia (22 degrees south). Also during the winter season the catch rates increased in Rakahanga.
This trend can be explained by the broad scale patterns of ocean productivity with the Cook Islands waters. Also the northern waters are less affected by seasonal patterns and like the offshore longline fishery and the highest catches actually occur during the winter month whereas catches decline in the southern group.
2. What sorts of species are being caught around Rarotonga?
The main catch species by weight was yellowfin tuna (70%) followed by wahoo (18%), marlin (4%) albacore tuna (4%), skipjack tuna, mahimahi, bigeye tuna, spearfish and other species registered less than 3% (Table 2).
In Mangaia the composition was quite different from other islands and the dominant catch was wahoo (57%).On Rakahanga the catch was dominated by yellowfin tuna (92%).
3. What is the main form of fishing?
The dominant form of fishing was trolling lines on the surface. Rakahanga was the exception and most of the fishing involved drop stone longlining.
4. Who contributed to the logsheet database?
There were 41fishers from Rarotonga, 45 from Aitutaki, 7 from Mangaia and 9 from Rakahangawho contributed catch data.
5. Can coastal artisanal and game fishing meet our fish eating habits?
Using the monthly average the total annual catch for Rarotonga is estimated to be 25 metric tonnes, Mangaia= 7 mt, Aitutaki = 25 mt and Rakahanga= 50 mt (Table 3). According to the data from the population census and assuming offcuts this fishery will provide 1.1 kg per person per year for Rarotonga, 7.4 kg for Managia, 7.3 kg for Aitutaki and 392 kg for Rakahanga.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends consumption of 25 kg of fish protein per year to meet basic nutritional requirements.
This trend suggests that the coastal fishery is unable to meet the nutritional requirements for the southern group but far exceeds the requirements in the northern group. Clearly part of the solution requires fish from the north to be brought to the southern group.
6. How important is the artisanal and game fishing?
Artisanal and game fishing is very important. Fishing is a widely practiced by households and it must be encouraged to ensure food security, maintain our traditional links with the sea and to harness economic benefits.
In conclusion
• MMR has launched ARTMAN fishing logsheet database to gather better information to manage its coastal fishery and minimise impacts from the offshore fishery.
• The catches range from 50 tonnes per year in Rakahanga, 24 tonnes in Rarotonga24 tonnes in Aitutaki and 7 tonnes in Mangaia.
• The highest catch rate was in Rakahanga of 22 kg/hr and the catches declined from the northern to southern group islands to 13.9 kg in Aitutaki, 5.7 kg in Rarotonga and 4.1 kg in Mangaia.
• The dominant catch is yellowfin tuna followed by marlin but in Mangaia the dominant species was wahoo.
• The main type of fishing practised is trolling fishing lines on the surface but drop longlining in Rakahanga was the dominant form.
• The catch rates per capita vary greatly with Rakahanga providing 392 kg/person/year, Mangaia 7.4 kg, Aitutaki 7.3 and Rarotonga1.1 kg. The nutritional requirements of fish per person per year is25 kg/person/yr and aside from Rakahanga the coastal fishery cannot meet food security needs. Part of the solution may be diverting catch from the north to the south.
• The artisanal and game charter fishing is important to provide nutrition, maintain our links to the sea and generate economic benefits.

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

Copyright 2006 Cook Islands Herald online . All rights reserved.