Pacific fisheries surveillance capacity expands with Tui Moana 2015

FFA RFSC, Honiara, SOLOMON ISLANDS --The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency-led Operation TUI MOANA, one of an annual series of four monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) operations aimed at curbing illegal fishing throughout the central and south Pacific, came to a successful conclusion on Friday 29th May. This was the fourteenth time Tui Moana has been conducted, representing an enduring commitment to the preservation of the regional tuna fishery. TUI MOANA 2015 IN PICTURES

Conducted over the period 20-29 May, Operation TUI MOANA 2015 (OPTM15) encompassed the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and associated high seas of Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Niue, Tokelau, Tuvalu and for the first time (in this particular operation) Fiji and Papua-New Guinea. The operation included the deployment of eight Pacific Class Patrol Boats from the participating nations and their respective National Headquarters, supported by five patrol aircraft from Australia, France and New Zealand as well as two French warships and a US Coast Guard Cutter.

Planning for OPTM15, which started over a year ago, coordinated surface and air surveillance across an area of operations covering 3.4 million square nautical miles (11.9 million square kilometres) of the Pacific Ocean.

On a daily basis the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) tracks 1200-1300 registered fishing vessels across this part of the Pacific via installed satellite tracking units, and displays results via a Regional Surveillance Picture (RSP). Relevant aspects of the RSP are then distributed to all of the member countries.

During OPTM15, surveillance aircraft provided verification of the RSP, searching 1.4 million square nautical miles and detecting 444 registered vessels through sensors such as radar, electro-optics and Automatic Identification System. Encouragingly, no unregistered fishing vessels were detected. Aircraft and deployed surface units physically sighted 197 fishing vessels. As a result of these sightings, 29 fishing vessels were boarded and inspected at sea, while another 27 were boarded by local fisheries authorities in regional ports. However, in the continuation of a trend of reducing infractions and indicating increased compliance with regional and national regulations, no infringements were reported.

OPTM15 Operations Coordinator, Royal Australian Navy Commander Gavin Baker, RAN, expressed satisfaction with the conduct and outcomes of the operation: “The coordinated efforts of so many ships, aircraft and headquarters and all of the people operating them, send a very clear message that we are watching and ready to do whatever is needed to prevent illegal fishing. Of particular note this year were the exemplary efforts of the NHQs in Cook Islands and Tonga, providing consistent, high-quality reports to the RFSC throughout the operation.”

This year, as has been the case in the past, the staff of the FFA-RFSC were joined by MCS experts from FFA member nations-- Mr Roland Maru from Cook Islands, Ensign Apenisa Cavuilati and Mr. Jale Wea from Fiji, Leading Seaman Riwas Pala from PNG, and Inspector Seleganiu Fusi from Tuvalu. As part of the RFSC’s efforts to increase its capabilities, a Fisheries Intelligence and Analysis Cell was set up. This cell was staffed by a new member of the RFSC team, Dennis Yehilomo, supported by Mr Patrick Spinney from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and Ms Sarai Higginson from New Zealand’s National Maritime Coordination Centre.

FFA Director-General, James Movick congratulated the participating Pacific Island authorities and operational personnel on the successful conclusion of a complex large scale operation. He also thanked the Government of Australia for its strong support and partnership with FFA in conducting these regional operations “in guarding against illegal fishing activity in Pacific waters. The cost and resources involved with funding for patrol boat fuel and supplies, travel and accommodation for the watch-keepers in Honiara and for the FFAs Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre during all operations are substantial, and I know our members join me in acknowledging this assistance from Australia as a key development partner to the agency,” he says.

DG Movick also thanked the defense and naval ‘quad’ partners of Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States for the excellent support they offer to FFA’s annual maritime surveillance operations.--ENDS