That is equivalent to the weight of 67 double-decker buses. At an average weight of 33kilograms per fish, that’s about 26,000 tuna.
The Ministry of Marine Resources says they approved the transfer of the fish in Rarotonga’s harbour, monitored by fisheries officers.
Five fisheries officers boarded the carrier vessel for three days at a time, spending 18 hours in two-person shifts to monitor the transfer of catch to the carrier vessel and supplies to the fishing vessels. The teams remained on board the vessel overnight at the end of daily operations.
Senior fisheries officer Andrew Jones said the vessels were authorised to fish within the exclusive zone, as long as they were at least 50 nautical miles from each island. They have been fishing in northern Cook Islands waters since March.
The Ministry said the tuna transfer ticked all the legal boxes. Fisheries Officers were able to check catch log sheets, in order to protect the integrity of the longline quota management system.
The week-long operation also provided an opportunity to have both the carrier vessel and the longline vessels fully inspected.
In January 2017, the Cook Islands became the first Pacific Island nation to introduce a quota on albacore and bigeye.
Foreign and domestic longline fishing companies are required to purchase quota by the tonne. The total albacore take allowed in Cook Islands waters is 9750 tonnes; the limit for bigeye is 3,500 tonnes.