Pacific surveillance nabs 12 fishing boats
Forum Fisheries Agency staff delighted with outcome of latest maritime surveillance exercise in the Pacific.
A large-scale maritime surveillance sweep of the Pacific has netted a record 12 vessels in potential breach of their fishing licences.
The vessels, nabbed by Fisheries Maritime Police from the Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea and Palau are flagged to Thailand, the Philippines and the FSM.
The regional sweep, called Operation Kurukuru, ended its tenth and final day yesterday.
The Deputy General of the Forum Fisheries Agency, Wez Norris, told Don Wiseman it is the biggest of several such exercises they undertake each year.
WEZ NORRIS: We've had participation from all of the FFA member countries as well as aircraft and vessels from our surveillance providers - Australia, NZ, France and the US. So when you put all that together we have covered a huge area of water, boarded and inspected a lot of vessels and come up with a number of infractions that are under investigation at the moment.
DON WISEMAN: What did you have in terms of numbers as far as boats and aircraft go?
WN: We had seven aircraft participating throughout the operation and these are all provided by the Quadrilateral service providers. That included aircraft from the US Coast Guard, Australian Air Force, NZ Air Force, French Navy and also the Border Protection Command in Australia. Those aircraft did about a 181 flying hours so that is a huge boost to our surveillance capacity because obviously they cover a very large area.
DW: Were you trying to cover EEZs of the member nations of the FFA or did you target a specific area?
WN: Yeah so this is our largest regional operation and it actually covers the whole of the Western and Central Pacific so that is the EEZs of our member countries and also the high seas areas in between them.
DW: You boarded a number of vessels. How many?
WN: In support of the aircraft, we had 15 patrol vessels that were operational throughout the time and they boarded 114 vessels throughout the course of the operation.
DW: And what sort of reception do they get when they board these vessels?
WN: In general, the fishing industry is very responsible and most legitimate operators realise that they are actually the beneficiaries of this type of surveillance and enforcement because it is protecting their investments that are diminished by illegal fishing, so on the whole, reception is very good but it is a difficult working environment - you are boarding vessels on the high seas where conditions are rough, there are language barriers and so on and so it really is a difficult job that these surveillance crews undertake on our behalf.
DW: A number of those vessels were seen to be in the wrong. What's going to happen there?
WN: Well, there were a range of potential breaches that were detected within those 12 and unfortunately I can't talk in great detail about them because they are ongoing. Some of them were relatively minor breaches that can be corrected very easily through infringement notices and fines. Other ones were more serious that will involve investigations, cooperation with the flag states of the vessels and prosecution down the line.
DW: Have any boats been impounded?
WN: Yes. There has been a number of apprehensions.
DW: How many?
WN: I am afraid I can't really go into the details of those. We have to be very careful when we are running these regional operations because while it is a regional collaborative exercise - obviously each one of our member countries is exercising its sovereignty to enforce its own law.
DW: But with these impounded boats - are they potentially going to be forfeited?
WN: I am not aware that any of the offences were that serious - that would be looking at forfeiture but that will obviously come out in the course of the investigations and if necessary, the prosecutions.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: