Surveillance Targets Unregulated and Unreported Fishing in the Pacific

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GCPB Nafanua II Sea boat deployment for vessel boarding inspection. Photo: Samoa NHQ

HONIARA, 28 October, 2020 – One of the largest maritime surveillance operations in the world, Operation Kurukuru, concludes this Friday 30 October, after two weeks of international cooperation by aircraft, ships, and national organisations to target Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing in the Pacific.

The Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) coordinates a regional surveillance operation which spans 21.3 million square kilometres, the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of 15 Pacific Island Member states and adjacent high seas pockets. 

“It’s a vast area to monitor for IUU fishing.  Activities such as Op Kurukuru 20 underline the importance of our cooperation to ensure we can be effective in conducting surveillance and enforcement,” says Director General, Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen. 

Multiagency cooperation between Fisheries, Police and Maritime Surveillance Advisor staff working together at Samoa National Headquarters during FFA led surveillance operation OPKK20. Photo: Samoa NHQ

“It is a significant commitment by our Members and Partners.  We sincerely thank all of those who participated across the Pacific.  We work best when we work together.” 

There are 12 Guardian Class and Pacific Patrol Boats from Pacific nations operating alongside five French Navy and United States Coastguard vessels during Op Kurukuru 2020Six aircraft from the FFA and Quadrilateral regional partners are providing air surveillance, and trials are being conducted using satellites and other emerging technologies.

Fijian patrol vessel, RFNS Savenaca, conducting an assessment on fishing contact during FFA led surveillance operation OPKK20. Photo: Fiji NHQ

Overall, 19 countries are involved in Op Kurukuru 2020

Local and regional partners, including Fisheries, Maritime Police, Defence Forces, and other maritime security agencies were encouraged to work closely alongside one another, and the results have been positive according to Surveillance Operations Officer CMDR Robert Lewis, RAN.  

 “Regional cooperation towards combatting IUU Fishing is really progressing,” says CMDR Lewis.

“We’ve seen some excellent examples of organisations working together to share information, and support national priorities during this operation.”

FFA’s Surveillance Operation Officer, Yohni Fepuleai with crew member of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-27 aircraft, gathering details of a vessel on sight during a mission covering South-West of Solomons EEZ on 27 October 2020. Photo: FFA Medi.

“We’ve already identified several potential vessels of interest, that is, they may be conducting illegal fishing, have inappropriate vessel markings, or be acting unusually.  Ships or aircraft have been redeployed to look into these vessels further, and the investigations are ongoing with our FFA Members,” says CMDR Lewis. 

The aim of Operation Kurukuru is to detect, deter, report and/ or apprehend potential IUU fishing activity but it also works to build capacity of National surveillance initiatives through support and mentoring from the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre at FFA.  

Staff of the FFA Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) with Fisheries Officers from Solomon Is. Photo: FFA Media

The Operation involves 15 FFA Members – Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Niue, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The four Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group members – Australia, France, New Zealand and United States – work alongside the nations.