7 May 2005

Micronesians team up to arrest five illegal fishing boats

7:09 am on 7 May 2005

A three-nation marine surveillance operation has seized five foreign vessels fishing illegally in the Micronesian area.

An Australian advisor to the Marshall Islands Sea Patrol, Lieutenant Commander Ben Hemphill, says Operation Big Eye is one of the largest maritime surveillance operations to be held in the Pacific.

Australian-funded patrol boats from the nations of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands pulled off four major joint surveillance operations over a two week period ending earlier this week.

Vessels from Japan, China and the Philippines were apprehended allegedly violating various regulations within the 320-kilometre Exclusive Economic Zones of these three nations.

A unique feature of the three-nation surveillance agreement is that the patrol vessels are authorized to board and arrest illegally fishing vessels in all three exclusive zones, not only in just their own zones.

The operation also involved the navy and coast guard of the United States, and air forces of Australia and New Zealand to provide aerial monitoring of fishing vessels, as well as support of the Forum Fisheries Agency in Solomon Islands.

Lieutenant Commander Hemphill says the Micronesian states lead other Pacific nations in joint maritime surveillance operations.