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Environmental impacts of seabed mining brochure
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Te Ipukarea Society Brochure 2017-18
Purse Seine Fishing

A number of people have asked why Te Ipukarea Society (TIS) is not pushing for a complete ban on purse seining. Although like many others in the Cook Islands, our gut feeling is that a ban on purse seining is best, we believe our stance should be supported by science and facts. The science and facts do not justify a blanket ban on the fishing method.

Scientific evidence indicates that purse seining in our region, targeting the abundant free swimming schools of skipjack, is sustainable, given the current stock abundance of skipjack tuna. However, in order to catch more fish in a shorter time, most, if not all purse seiners, use large numbers of Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs) fitted with radio beacons, to aggregate large schools of fish, and then set their nets around these schools.

In our part of the Pacific Ocean, along with the skipjack tuna, these drifting FADs also attract a large number of juvenile bigeye tuna. The scientists have warned the fishery managers that bigeye tuna stocks are suffering from overfishing, and catches have to be reduced by about 40% if the species is to be saved from commercial extinction.

According to reports, bigeye tuna in the eastern Pacific make up 28% of the total catch of purse seine fishing around drifting FADs. However when purse seining on free schools of fish, without the use of FADs, bigeye tuna makes up only 1% of the catch.

Local fishermen should also note that when TIS asks for a ban on FADs, this is referring to the drifting FADs used by purse seiners. The FADs that MMR have anchored around our islands are a different issue, and TIS has no problem with these, as they help local fishermen increase their catch and reduce their costs.

Rather than just following the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) rules and limiting the use of FADs for several months, the Cook Islands should make it a condition of licencing the purse seiners that they are not allowed to use fish aggregation devices (FADs) at all. We also need to put in place adequate observer coverage and enforcement mechanisms to ensure the fishing boat operators follow the rules, and the costs of monitoring needs to be paid for by the fishing boat owners.

TIS believes that if the above steps were put in place, it would be most unlikely that the Spanish will ask for their purse seiners to fish here.

Big Eye Tuna

The tuna industry in the Pacific is not meeting its target to reduce catches, and leaders say there must be an agreement this year on new quotas.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission is concerned about the lack of consensus, as more boats prepare to enter Pacific waters.

In the lead-up to a crucial meeting in December, the Commission says difficult decisions must be made in the interests of sustainability.

Alex Perrottet has more:

Bigeye tuna are being caught in record numbers, despite weight limits introduced in 2008 for longline fisheries. They caused the Honolulu fishery to close down its yearly catch early on two occasions, and it’s warning it would almost halve its current catch and cause shutdowns as early as July, if proposed limits are set. Purse seine vessels have limits on the number of days they can fish, and a scientist advising the US pacific fisheries, Dr Charles Daxboeck, says they aren’t restricted by weight and it’s a double-standard.

CHARLES DAXBOECK: Somehow we have to, down the road, figure out a way of getting catch in terms of the weight because it’s calculated once it gets to the processor and therefore it’s already too late.

The Hawai’i longline fishery has signalled it will not agree to recommendations from the Parties to the Nauru Agreement that their yearly catches be further cut. But the executive director of the Tuna Commission, Professor Glenn Hurry, says its one of several difficult demands to be met.

GLENN HURRY: It’s going to be difficult. It will affect fleets, I mean, at the end of the day we’ve got to reduce the quota of bigeye and there’ll be a lot of very big industry operators at the table who are going to be watching this and potentially concerned about how it develops.

But Dr Daxboeck says those over-using fish aggregation devices, or FADs, remove juvenile bigeye tuna at increasing rates, which endangers ongoing sustainability. He also says the Honolulu catch services a domestic market in Hawai’i, where a lot of its seafood is still imported. He says the Honolulu market is local, and shouldn’t be seen as outside the Pacific.

CHARLES DAXBOECK: We still have to import almost 40 percent of our seafood products because of the demand. So it’s a rather unique situation for Hawai’i.

But Professor Hurry says the science isn’t settled. He says restrictions on adult catches is also important as they are the ones spawning the juvenile fish. He says member countries need to agree on new restrictions, as more boats are on their way.

GLENN HURRY: We’ve got too many boats in this purse seine fishery at the moment, and there’s another 45 under construction in Asian shipyards at the moment and some of those will enter our fishery and we need some strong regulations in place before they do get in.

Others in the region support the argument that the US is in a unique position. Last month Dr John Hampton, the manager of the Oceanic Fisheries Programme at the SPC, said he commended the US for taking action against its own vessels when it issued fines for boats that overused FADs. And Dr Hampton said other countries don’t live by the same standards.

JONN HAMPTON: All credit to the US government for zealously following up reports of irregularities amongst its own fleet. They are particularly good at that and follow up these sorts of reports with a lot of vigour, and I think it would be great if other distant-water fishing nations followed suit.

Professor Hurry says another difficult challenge is to find ways of meeting the demand of Pacific nations that have asked for large compensation packages to replace their lost income when vessels are banned from fishing.

EU wants to Purse Seine in the Cook Islands MMR Ben Ponia: Photo courtesy CI News

The first stage of negotiations involving a suggested Sustainable Fishing Partnership Agreement (SFPA) between the Cook Islands and the European Union has been held on the Island of Raratonga. The EU hopes to obtain tuna fishing rights for 4 tuna purse seiners. Currently within the WCPO EU seiners are only allowed to fish tuna in the waters of Kiribati and on the high seas.

An agreement with the Cook Islands, according to the European Commission will allow the EU to expand its network of tuna agreements in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) with four purse seiners, in an area where 50 percent of the global tuna catch is taken. Since the Cook Islands have recently become an associated member of the PNA, a deal with the Cooks could have EU seiners obtain access to all the EEZ’s of all 8 PNA member countries. The Cook Islands will receive a financial contribution for opening this back door for the European fleet into PNA waters.

The European Commission outlined that the discussions were held in a positive, open and constructive atmosphere, and progress was achieved in the production of a draft text for both SFPA and a Fisheries Protocol. The Commission stated that the draft text from the negotiations will now be tabled to the Cook Islands Cabinet of Ministers for its final consideration. A Cook Islands Delegation will travel to Brussels during the second week of September 2013 to continue the discussions, and if mutually agreed to initial the Agreement and its Protocol.

The 8 PNA member countries are critically following the negotiations, and already critical remarks have been heard about the Cook Islands conduct. The general feeling is that the EU is trying to increase its industry presence and influence within the PNA and the WCPO. Any fishing of EU seiners within the PNA or Cook waters would require these seiners to commit to the VDS (Vessel Day Scheme).

n addition to the final contribution for the access to the waters, the EU Commission stated that an additional specific amount will be granted to support the implementation of Cook Islands sectoral fisheries policy and maritime policy.

The EU says it wants to initiate a dialogue on fisheries governance, encourage sustainable and responsible fishing, and to cooperate in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

TIS is very concerned at this proposal and is adamant their will need to be open and transparent dialogue and consultation. TIS and other interested parties wanting to protect our fish and fishing in the Cook Islands want to see the end and not the continuation of Purse Seine fishing in the Pacific.

TIS Kelvin Passfield: Courtesy of CI Ne

e Ipukarea Society (TIS) is concerned that some government agencies are not following proper processes for public consultation.

The Minister of Marine Resources and Prime Minister, Hon Henry Puna, has assured the public there will be wide consultation on the European Union (EU) purse seine fishing proposal.

However, the environment NGO TIS is expressing their concern after the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) announced their first public consultation on the EU fishing deal the day of the meeting saying it was to take place at the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) Avatiu office last night. Only it didn’t take place there!

Not only did they advise of the meeting, meeting time and venue in the paper on the day of the meeting (yesterday), but mid-way through the day, they changed the venue!

“And even though I personally phoned MMR yesterday morning to check on the details of the meeting, before arranging for radio advertisements at no cost to MMR promoting the meeting, no one had the courtesy to phone me back and tell me of the change in venue” Director of Te Ipukarea Society, Kelvin Passfield says.

“For the public to have an opportunity to have their say, it’s important that government agencies follow proper processes for public consultation, including providing adequate notice and regular advertisements,” Passfield added.

Passfield says the date, time and venue of public consultation meetings should be provided at least a week in advance.

“Announcing the public consultation on the EU fishing deal the day of the event and holding it at a poorly known location is totally unacceptable, and I doubt this is the format the PM expected when he stated there would be wide public consultation” says Passfield.

In addition, a recent meeting to discuss seabed minerals held Thursday 3rd October at the Sinai Hall was also announced only on the day of the meeting.

“Few people attended. I was told that if the people that came for the SOPAC conference weren’t there, nobody would have been present. If government agencies are genuine in their desire to consult the public, then they should have the decency to provide adequate notice so that “we”, the public, can contribute in a timely manner”, concluded Passfield.

Hon. Mark Brown with June Hosking Marine Park logo winner

We are proud to announce June Hosking as the winning entry!

A short time ago Hon Mark Brown, Minister of Finance, on behalf of Prime Minister Henry Puna announced the winner of the logo competition and presented June with the winners prize of $500 in the Cabinet Room.

In making the announcement Minister Brown paid tribute to all those who entered the competition. On the PM’s behalf he particularly noted that the entries were all of an exceptionally high standard and that the PM took much time to consider each individual entry before reaching his final decision.

Over 20 entries were entered from Rarotonga, Pa Enua and New Zealand.

The logo will be used extensively on products, printed material, clothing, media releases, websites and pretty much everything associated with the Cook Islands Marine Park from here on!

Meitaki ma’ata to all who entered, thank you for taking the time to do so.

Alex Herman, Courtesy of C I News Teina Mackenzie (on the right)

With financial support from SPC-EU SOPAC (the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Division), the search has begun for up to 12 young Cook Islanders (14-19 years) interested in participating in a national debate. They do not have to have any knowledge of Seabed Minerals – although it is expected that they will learn a lot about the topic during the process.

The aim of the debate being co-ordinated by Teina Mackenzie (TIS) and Alex Herman (SBMA) is to increase public awareness on deep sea mining issues and how these issues might relate to the Cook Islands and also to encourage youth to engage and develop a better understanding of deep seabed minerals. “It’s important to hear from our youth because, as our future leaders, young people should have an understanding of development issues affecting our country and be given the opportunity to contribute through a forum such as the debate” said Alex Herman.

“This debate will challenge our youth to extend their understanding of the potential effects – both positive and negative – of this pioneer industry; and to voice their opinions in a public forum” added Teina Mackenzie.

The Debate will be run along the lines of a competition. Once up to 12 entrants are identified, the organisers will disseminate a comprehensive set of papers and workshop material that have been previously published and shared within the seabed mining community. This information will allow the debaters to gain knowledge and will prepare them to debate the issues relating to the Cook Islands seabed minerals.

The aspiring debaters will also have the opportunity to participate in further information gathering, field trips and training sessions prior to the final debate early October.

As part of the generous sponsorship that the SOPAC Deep Seabed Minerals (DSM) Project are providing is the opportunity for the overall winner of the debate to accompany the representatives from Te Ipukarea and Seabed Minerals Authority in attending the next SOPAC DSM Workshop taking place in Fiji in early December. Return flights, meals, accommodation and travel insurance will be provided. As such, those who wish to enter the debate must have parental consent to travel and will need a valid passport.

“This prize is ideal in that it celebrates a young person who is able to understand the various issues and who can articulate their views well, regardless of which position they advocate.” said Teina.

The winner will meet regional decision makers and have the opportunity to contribute at the workshop in Fiji.

A brief submission on why you would like to participate is required. For more information please contact:

Teina Mackenzie

Email: teinam@gmail.com

Ph: 55 742

Alex Herman

Email: alex.herman@cookislands.gov.ck

Ph: 29 193

Reef Survey in Mitiaro

The boat arrived in Manuae on Tuesday 30th July, and we did 3 dives that day. On Wednesday we did 2 more dives in the morning, and spent the afternoon exploring the island. We found a FAD from a large Purse Seine vessel, the Amalia. This boat can hold over 1,300,000 kgs of tuna in its hold!!. Hopefully this FAD drifted in from outside our EEZ, and is not an indication that the boat was fishing in our waters.

The reef in Manuae was spectacular, lots of healthy growth, and the water was as clear as anyone has seen. However, there we also signs of coral disease noticed at one site.

The boat left Manuae on Wednesday night for Mitiaro, arriving early Thursday morning after an extremely rough crossing. The team did 2 dives on the leeward reef, and went ashore in the afternoon to make a presentation to the community about what we are doing. This was well received by the 30 people who attended, and was followed by a kaikai provided by the community.

New TIS employees TIS President Ian Karika

At the recent Annual General Meeting of the Te Ipukarea Society (TIS) a new board and committee were elected. Together with recent staff appointments aligned to the Cook Islands Marine Park, this enhanced TIS team is bursting with energy and welcoming all the challenges that lie ahead in the next 12 months.

“There has been no shortage of change in the last month at TIS” said re-elected President Ian Karika. “Not only have we got a new team, we also have new premises and we are open to welcoming in new visitors and members, hopefully lots of them!”

“We are continuing our work on new and not so new projects. Our core areas of focus Biodiversity, Waste, Ecologically Sustainable Development and Youth remain as important now as they did when we were formed (as the first Cook Islands environmental NGO) in 1996.”

“Our most recent task – establishing the Cook Islands Marine Park – compliments our other work and we feel privileged to have been given such a task. We are conscious we will only get one shot at successfully establishing the Marine Park and we intend to deliver on that challenge.”

Following the recent AGM, the Te Ipukarea board members now comprise:

Office holders: Dame Margaret Karika (Patron), Ian Karika (President), Carinna Langsford (Vice President) and Teresa Arneric (Secretary/Treasurer).

Joining the board is a very enthusiastic team of volunteers.

The TIS office is now located in Tupapa, about 250m town and sea side of the Fishing Club, within the next couple of days signage will be up which will make the task of identifying our spot that much easier – (Jaewyn MacKay – TIS Media Release.)

Te Ipukarea Society representative Teina Mackenzie was at the Social Impacts of Deep Sea Mineral Activities and Stakeholder Participation’ regional workshop recently in Vanuatu. She said the regional workshop provided a great opportunity for countries to understand the many factors that influence sound decisions and the need to encourage broad participation.

“Discussing the issues regarding economic development, and to what extent they may or may not supersede the need to proceed with caution when there are many social factors that will be affected, is a great start,” she says.

Pelenatita Kara from the Civil Society Forum of Tonga, says she will endeavour to use knowledge from the training to create a platform for public consultation and dialogue where civil society organisations, the wider community, the private sector and government can continue to discuss deep sea minerals issues.

“I hope everyone else will do this as well so we can make use of the excellent strategies and framework proposed during this week’s training. We are looking at being as inclusive as we can to ensure we maximize the chances for people to get their queries clarified and have both government and companies table their cases,” she said.

Margaret Aulda, environment officer for Papua New Guinea’s Mineral Resources Authority says the main objective of the workshop was to bring the different stakeholders together in one room to talk about the potential social impacts of deep sea mining activities.

“I think that deep sea mining risks should be thoroughly identified and mitigation and management measure should be developed to addresses these risks. Concerned parties should always be updated through constant consultation and awareness. There has to be transparent and effective consultation between all stakeholders and this process can be achievable if countries have legislation and policies in place that can give effects and legality to the whole process. At the end of the day the onus is with the government of the day to decide in the best interest of its people,” she says.

The Pacific Deep Sea Minerals Project is the first major initiative designed to regulate this new activity in a co-ordinated way within the Pacific region. The project is funded by the European Union and managed by SOPAC, the Applied Geoscience and Technology Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. Tawake says the project is to provide countries with the relevant information and advice they need to make informed decisions about deep sea mining within their national jurisdictions.

“I think it’s fair to say that Pacific Island countries still need to do more work to help the wider public to understand the potential benefits and impacts of any deep sea mining activities that may occur within the territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zones of these countries,” he says.

“The SPC-EU DSM Project is advocating the application of the precautionary approach in all deep sea mineral activities.”

Marumaru Atua anchors just off Suwarrow

The Traditional Cook Islands Voyaging Vaka (Canoe) the Marumaru Atua, was back in Rarotonga with some extra cargo. Taking a team of 10 volunteers, it set off for Suwarrow two weeks prior and after a 4 day voyage arrived just outside the reef of Suwarrow. Staying for four days the crew then joined in on the Rat Eradication that had already been done by a group of ten for the past three weeks. The crew were happy to help out with the project as they too could see the benefit first hand in preserving the quality of life and especially bird life in this pristine bird sanctuary.

After the four day lay over all the Eradication staff including photographers, and Environment service staff put their hand to the job of being part of the crew to sail Marumaru Atua back to Rarotonga. With a longer trip back due to not so friendly winds, after six days of sailing the beautiful waters back from Suwarrow, Rarotonga was a beautiful sight. The crew though a little weary from the Sun and continuing shifts on watch welcomed the extra hands the Rat Eradication team provided and added to the experience of sailing a traditional voyaging canoe. With everyone home safe, the question now was whether the Vaka would go back to Suwarrow in November to pick up the two game keepers that were stationed there before the return of the hurricane season.

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