Yellow Fin tuna in the Cook Islands. Photo: Marty Melville / AFP
The Aronga Mana of Te Au O Tonga, or the village chiefs, along with Te Ipukarea Society claimed the government’s deal with the EU lacked a full environmental impact report and was not consulted on widely enough.
In her decision, Justice Potter did question the absence of scientific information on the number of fishing days allowed, the effectiveness of a short term ban on fish aggregating devices and what she called soft catch limits, but ultimately ruled in the government’s favour.
The secretary of Marine Resources, Ben Ponia, says the judgment will serve as a landmark case for both the Cook Islands Constitution and customary law governing fisheries.
He says it was a highly technical and complex case but he believes the judge saw that government’s efforts to develop offshore fisheries were credible and legitimate.
Te Ipukarea Society president, Ian Karika, says they are disappointed but heartened that Justice Potter highlighted concerns over the deal.