The EU and the Cook Islands have agreed on all the elements of a new Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement (SFPA), which gives the go ahead for EU vessels to conduct certain fishing operations in waters around the South Pacific island country.
On 29 November, the first Joint Committee in the framework of the SFPA between the EU and the Cook Islands came to an end. The parties defined the financial support to be granted by the EU for the development of the Cook Islands’ fisheries sector and discussed fisheries matters to allow for the start of fishing operations.
The new agreement will allow up to four EU vessels to fish for maximum 7,000 metric tons (MT) of tuna per year and other highly migratory species in the Cook Islands’ fishing area.
In return, the EU will pay the Cook Islands EUR 2.87 million (USD 3.1 million), of which EUR 1.47 million (USD 1.6 million) is in exchange for access to the resources. Remaining funds are specifically earmarked for the local fishing sector.
Over the next four years, the Cook Islands will invest EUR 1.4 million (USD 1.5 million) on improving the living standard of small-scale fishermen, reinforcing control and surveillance operations, strengthening the food safety authority and sharpening the sustainability of its fisheries policies.
The Joint Committee also reviewed the procedures for issuing fishing authorizations and catch reporting, as well as the boundaries of the fishing area accessible to EU vessels.
In addition to the monitoring, control and surveillance measures prescribed by the fisheries agreement and the competent regional fisheries management organization, EU vessels will implement an electronic observer scheme on board on a voluntary basis.
In the margins of the Joint Committee, the Cook Islands’ fisheries administration held a public hearing in which EU officials presented principles and content of the fisheries agreement and of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to the public at large.
The new SFPA between the EU and the Cook Islands is a completely new partnership, explained the European Commission (EC). It is an opportunity for both parties to strengthen their cooperation at multilateral level – within the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and, being the EU’s only active agreement in the Pacific Ocean, it strengthens the position of the bloc in the region.