The routine inspections are a standard feature in licensing conditions used to regulate access to Cook Islands waters.
All vessels are required to pass these inspections prior to being issued licences and commencing fishing activity each year.
The inspections include verifying all vessel documentation, inspecting fishing gear, safety equipment and certification, fishing authorisations and ensuring compliance with other national, regional and international obligations.
A team of Compliance Officers, comprised of MMR Fisheries Officers, boarded and inspected the first longline vessel on Tuesday shortly after it came into Avatiu Harbour. On Friday two more vessels were inspected by a team of Fisheries Officers and Maritime Police Officers. The remaining vessels are due in to port this week.
In addition to the vessel inspections, MMR is working to implement electronic reporting across the entire longline fleet. This will enable vessel masters to record their daily fishing activities and catches on electronic devices, capable of reporting directly in to MMR’s databases. This work is being done in collaboration with the fishing industry and the Pacific Community (SPC) through an application named eTUNALOG. The app was designed to replace the need for skippers to complete paper based fishing logsheets, improve timely submission of catch data and facilitate improved analytical capabilities, as MMR continues to develop its integrated fisheries information management systems.
Electronic reporting makes the process of collecting and reporting catch data more efficient, and helps MMR monitor its Quota Management System (QMS).
The QMS was introduced in 2017 to improve controls on tuna catches. It sets limits on the total catch of albacore and bigeye tuna in the Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) each year.
This month’s in-port vessel inspections are an opportunity for Compliance Officers to build capacity and experience for boarding and inspections of fishing vessels.