2005 appears to have been a relatively good year for the fishing industry.
Data on the total catch for January to June 2005 indicates an increase of 10.3% on the 2004 catch for the same period. However, seasonal highs occur around July to September, and complete data for this period in 2005 is not yet available.
High production costs due to labour and the rising price of fuel have also squeezed profit margins. (Note that catch data from the Ministry of Marine Resources is used in place of export statistics as it is deemed more reliable.) At present there are eight licensed fishing vessels operating in the Southern Group and fifteen in the Northern Group. Catch from the Southern Group is usually exported to the fresh fish markets in Japan (yellow fin tuna and swordfish), whereas the Northern catch is offloaded in American Samoa and tinned (albacore). Therefore the price per kilo for Southern Group catch is generally greater than the price for Northern Group catch. Moreover, the economic benefits for the Cook Islands are greater from the Southern Group catch because it is offloaded in Rarotonga.
It is understood that many smaller operators have left the industry because of the absence of economies of scale to absorb losses during low seasons as well as covering the increasing cost of operations. The remaining operators tend to be larger and to have more sustainable operations.
It also must be noted that there are problems of over fishing in the Pacific region. Addressing this will require effective action at the regional level. This will affect the viability of the fishing industry in the long term if catch is not limited to a sustainable yield.