The region’s annual large-scale maritime surveillance sweep of Pacific fishing waters has netted a record 12 vessels in potential breach of their fishing licenses.
The vessels, nabbed by Fisheries Maritime Police from FSM (6), PNG (5) and Palau (one) are flagged to Thailand, the Philippines and FSM.
They were amongst 114 boardings of fishing vessels and 1011 sightings of vessels across the EEZs of 14 Pacific nations involved in the Operation Kurukuru maritime surveillance exercise.
The regional sweep, launched on Wednesday 15th October, ended its tenth and final day Friday.
“Further details on the alleged infringements are an operational matter and will be dealt with at the national level but I think the findings demonstrate the level of standards and effectiveness which our national partners are applying to themselves in the area of maritime surveillance,” says FFA Director General James Movick.
“The fact that the FSM patrol boat boarded, inspected and took action on one of its own fishing vessels as part of the Operation is significant.
“While the infraction was relatively minor, this is a clear demonstration that FSM's application of the rules for fishing activity is no less stringent on vessels under its flag, than any other national flag, and this is exactly as it should be.”
He noted that the spread of boardings - with 44 of the 114 vessels being boarded in ports – one of them leading to an ongoing investigation -- shows that nations are continuing vigilance not just at sea, but within their own ports.
“Through operations such as Kurukuru, Pacific nations as custodians of their oceanic resources are capably sending the message to anyone fishing without, or in breach of, their licenses that we are watching, your activity is being recorded, and you will be caught,” Movick says.
The Patrol Boats RKS TEANOAI (Kiribati), with 19, and PSS PRESIDENT H.I. REMELIIK (Palau), with 14, conducted half of the total at-sea boardings during Kurukuru, providing a “consistent excellence in their annual efforts and national prioritising for the resources needed to maintain this surveillance standard,” he added.
15 vessels spent a combined total of 106 days at sea, linking where possible with seven patrol aircraft crews whose shifts totalled 181 flight hours documenting and ‘sensing’ fishing activity in Pacific waters.
The FFA Director General also commended the “outstanding” activity of Papua New Guinea’s patrol boat the HMPNGS SEEADLER, another success story of Kurukuru 2014.
Five of its six boardings resulted in discovery of potential infringements.
The active participation of PNG is a major outcome for the current operation, linked to an earlier one-month attachment to FFA’s Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre by PNG Leading Seaman Riwas Israel Pala of the National Surveillance Coordination Centre based in Port Moresby.
“Thanks to his attachment with the FFA RFSC and his leadership in applying that learning back in his home HQ, PNG was online, active and fully engaged for the entire operation, a fantastic result for one of the busiest fishing nations in the Pacific,” says Movick.
He welcomed the introduction in Kurukuru 2014 of a new ‘Chief of Staff’ position to help keep communications and updates flowing.
Cook Islands Operations Officer and 2nd-in-command of the Cook Islands Maritime Division, Tuariki ‘Stu’ Henry was the inaugural Chief of Staff, taking up an intensive month-long attachment to the FFA-RFSC as part of this role.
“As a major surveillance operation for the Pacific, it’s pleasing to see Kurukuru continue to deliver innovation and results on an annual basis and I thank Australia for its funding support for these new updates to the annual program,” says Movick.
Kurukuru 2014 covered an area of approximately 30 million square kilometres - including the EEZs of Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Fisheries surveillance and enforcement staff from all of these countries worked together with their Quadrilateral Defence Cooperation counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, France and the United States over the two weeks of round the clock surveillance, data analysis, reporting & information sharing and, ultimately, enforcement operations .
Australia’s Fisheries Management Authority, the Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources, and NZ’s National Maritime Coordination Centre provided analysts to aid the operation in the Surveillance centre while Vanuatu ship-riders worked with patrol boats in Palau.
Operation Kurukuru ends