16 March 2018
The Ministry of Marine Resources conducted a full portside inspection of the European Union purse seiner FB Aurora B in Pago Pago, American Samoa on Thursday. MMR Senior Fisheries Officer Dimary Stowers and Technical Support Officer Brett Enad from the Cook Islands Fisheries Field Office (CIFFO) were accompanied by Director Offshore Fisheries Division Tim Costelloe for the inspection.
Aurora B has recently been fishing in the High Seas to the north of the Cook Islands exclusive economic zone (EEZ), in the Kiribati EEZ and on the international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) north east of Tahiti.
The Aurora B, which targets skipjack tuna, called into Pago Pago to tranship in port to a carrier vessel for export to the EU market.
Although the vessel did not fish inside the Cook Islands EEZ on this recent trip, its operators cooperate with MMR for the monitoring and verification of catch. The Cook Islands places Fisheries Observers on the vessel to work with the Captain to provide key services for the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) region.
Fisheries Observers are deployed on all licensed purse seine vessels in the region to collect independent information on catch, bycatch, position, and other important fishing effort data.
This information is used by MMR and regional fisheries managers for science and compliance purposes to evaluate fish stocks and ensure vessels are fishing within the law. Cook Island Fisheries Observers are usually deployed from the CIFFO in Pago Pago. The Cook Islands has a permanent presence in the port of Pago Pago with the CIFFO as a branch of the Offshore Division operating in with the full collaboration and cooperation of the American Samoa Government.
The vessel Aurora B carries two Observers, one from the Cook Islands for WCPFC; and one from Ecuador, representing the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), for the EPO. The vessel also carries cameras to collect video footage of its operations.
The footage is monitored and analysed by staff at MMR’s Oceans Monitoring Centre in Rarotonga to provide open and transparent analysis of fishing operations for the entire trip.
MMR Director Offshore Tim Costelloe says the Ministry is pleased with the results of the Aurora B inspection.
“The EU vessels aren’t significantly larger than other modern purse seiners operated by the US and other countries,” he says, “and we are satisfied the Spanish operators have a solid record of cooperation and compliance with MMR. Like most large fishing nations, they have come a very long way in a very short time in terms of accepting the holistic precautionary approach to fisheries management, and have been working off their own initiative, in cooperation with the Cook Islands, to systemise and improve management systems to build true long-term sustainable management of the fisheries stocks.”
Aurora B is one of two vessels fishing under the European Union-Cook Islands Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement (SFPA), which is now in its second year.
MMR’s Offshore Division operates an ongoing programme of vessel boarding and inspection in ports around the region in fulfillment of our flag state and coastal state responsibilities under international instruments, and also works with the Cook Islands Maritime Police and regional partners to board fishing vessels at sea, throughout the course of the year, for compliance inspections to ensure the integrity of our management of the marine resources of the Cook Islands.
The Ministry will be holding an opening for its recently extended and renovated Oceans Monitoring Centre next Thursday. The renovation was completed in January with funding from the Sector Support component of the SFPA. The Centre includes eight new monitoring screens for the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) and work space for 10 staff.