Cook Islands- Fishery Management

Regional Level

At the regional level, Bigeye and Yellowfin stocks are managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). The regional requirements for tuna longline fisheries are summarized in the table below.


Key relevant features

2010-05 South Pacific Albacore. 
  • Limits of the number of fishing vessels actively fishing for South Pacific albacore in the Convention Area south of 20ºS above current (2005) levels or recent historical (2000-2004) levels.
2008-03 Sea Turtles
  • Implement FAO Guidelines,
  • Comatose turtles to be brought on board and resuscitation attempted
  • Proper handling and release techniques and equipment to be applied as per WCPFC Guidelines.
2009-04 Sharks.
  • Requires full utilisation through retention of carcass
  • Implement 5% fin to weight ratio
  • Prohibit retention, transhipment or trading in fins caught in contravention
  • Encourage live release of sharks in non-target fisheries
2013-01 Bigeye/yellowfin measure (species taken as by-product by the UoC fishery)
  • Control on FAD sets in purse seine fishery
  • Closed period for FADs and FAD limits
  • Ban on high seas FADs (phased in)
  • Effort restrictions (purse seine and longline)
  • Purse seine discard ban


Sub-Regional Level

At the sub-regional level, Bigeye and Yellowfin stocks are managed by the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). The FFA aims to assist its member countries to maximize local benefits from sustainable fishing, especially of highly migratory stocks, and also provide shared services in certain areas which provide economies of scale. These services include vessels registration and monitoring systems, information systems and surveillance coordination. To learn more, visit the FFA website.

Two major programs of relevance to MMR are the FFA’s Fisheries Management program and Fisheries Operations program. These programs provide adive on appropriate legal framework for national tuna management, obligations under various treaties and arrangements, appropriate fisheries management frameworks, effective fisheries administration, developments and implementation of monitoring, control and surveillance systems.

FFA also services regional fisheries treaties and arrangements and provide capacity building in the area of fisheries management.

National Level

Fisheries resources are managed by the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) of the Cook Islands who issues fishing licenses to companies and individuals who wish to fish in their EEZ waters. These licenses are limited to a maximum of 50 for the offshore longline fishery, of which 40 were issued in 2012. MMR implements management measures within the Cook Islands EEZ that are consistent with those of the WCPFC. The fishery is managed under the Large Pelagic Longline Fishery Plan which entered into force on 27th August 2008.  Limits on fishing effort and catch and the allocation of fishing rights including catch quantities, effort, time restrictions, fishing areas and fishing gear are provided for in the fishery plan. Fishing in the High Seas requires a separate authorisation to ensure vessels comply with any applicable RFMO requirements. Cook Islands has taken a comprehensive approach in legislation to the protection of non-target species. The Marine Resources (large Pelagic Longline Fishery) Regulations (2012) requires that NPOAs for seabirds, sea turtles and sharks are complied with at all times.