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Operation Kurukuru catches illegal ships

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Two boats caught illegally fishing in Solomon waters earlier this year.

OPERATION Kurukuru 2010, a coordinated maritime surveillance operation in which countries cooperate to detect illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, hosted by the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency concluded this week with several successful boardings and apprehensions of suspected illegal fishing vessels.


Approximately 550 people were actively involved in Operation Kurukuru 2010 which resulted in locating 195 foreign fishing vessels in the area of operations.

Thirty-five fishing vessels were considered worthy of further investigation after analysis and boarded by officers from the participating nations.

Two vessels, one in Tuvalu and one in Solomon Islands have been apprehended and escorted to their national ports for further investigation.

The vessel investigated in Tuvalu was found to have excessive shark fins and the owners paid a $10,000 fine (USD).

Two other vessels were cited for minor infringements and one in Solomon Islands waters was found not reporting under the vessel monitoring system so this was rectified.

Covering an area of 12 million square kilometres - including the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu and areas of the high seas – Operation Kurukuru 2010 involved surveillance, police, fisheries and military personnel from all of these countries working together with their counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, France and US over 10 days of surveillance.

840 hours of patrol at sea were provided by the surveillance vessels involved in the operation and the six aircraft undertook a total of 120 hours of aerial surveillance.

Surveillance was conducted by individual countries within their respective EEZ’s using 6 Pacific Class Patrol Boats (from Solomon Islands, PNG, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati and Vanuatu), 1 US Coast Guard Cutter, 1 French Frigate and 2 French Patrol Boats.

This was supported by aerial surveillance provided by Maritime Patrol Aircraft (2 P-3 Orions supplied by Australia & New Zealand, 2 Gardians supplied by France, a Hercules C-130 from the US Coast Guard and, for the first time, a Dash-8 aircraft provided by Australia Customs and Border Protection Command).

Operation Kurukuru 2010 was coordinated by a team based in the FFA Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) Operations Room in Honiara, established by the FFA with funding from the Australian Defence Cooperation Program.

The team consisted of FFA staff and officers from Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Solomons Islands, PNG and Australia’s Customs and Border Protection Command.

The Operations Room relies on access to data from all the FFA member countries and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

The RFSC electronic systems collect and analyse fisheries information and displays foreign fishing vessel movements combined with the patrol plans for the surveillance aircraft and vessels over the entire operations area on an interactive computer map display.

This is supplied to participating nations on an external secure website.

By collating information from regional and national licence and suspected illegal fishing lists, the electronic systems can identify and monitor suspicious vessels.

Regional surveillance staff, trained by FFA, prioritise their operations efforts, contact national staff and help make decisions on where to send surveillance aircraft and patrol boats.

By collating information from regional and national licence and suspected illegal fishing lists, RFSC can readily identify and monitor suspicious vessels.

For operations such as Operation Kurukuru 2010, the centre takes on the role of the operational Joint Coordination Centre.

Operation Kurukuru 2010 also involved participation by three military liaison officers from Australia, France and the United States and 3 Australian Fisheries Management Authority officers were on board surveillance vessels involved and one officer at the RFSC was an observers.

Chief of Police from FSM also acted as an observer.

Operation Kurukuru is an activity to meet the broader objectives of sustainable development and regional security of The Pacific Plan.

Operations Commander – Martin Campbell of the FFA said: “Operation KuruKuru 2010 is by far the largest fisheries operation conducted in the region and builds on the continuous regional effort which is being undertaken to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The successful outcomes of the operation speak for themselves and send a strong message to all fishing vessels which enter this region that they are being closely monitored and any illegal activity will be swiftly dealt with.

However, the aim of the operation was not only to find and prosecute illegal activity but also to build on the interoperability achieved in previous operations in conducting coordinated and cooperative Monitoring, Control and Surveillance to combat IUU.

As such, Operation KuruKuru 2010 has also generated ideas for continued development of an effective national and regional surveillance operations strategy, including building and advancing regional cooperation.

The FFA Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre was pleased to host Operation Kurukuru 2010 and contribute to cooperative approach in regional surveillance operations”.

Director General of the FFA Dan S’ua: “The FFA is proud to be a part of Operation Kurukuru 2010 which has brought Pacific Island countries and territories together this week to share information and resources to survey our seas and combat illegal fishing.

“This regional approach to the conduct of Monitoring, Control and Surveillance is in keeping with the direction the secretariat has received from the Forum Fisheries Committee Ministers and contributes to the broader MCS Strategy being developed by the FFA membership.

“Operations such as this will continue to build on the excellent relationships which have been established between the FFA member countries and we also acknowledge the invaluable contribution of our regional surveillance partners in the US, France, NZ and Australia”.