Region’s biggest maritime surveillance operation acts to stop illegal fishing

FFA REGIONAL HEADQUARTERS, HONIARA, SOLOMON ISLANDS, FRIDAY 21 AUGUST 2009: Operation Kurukuru 2009, a coordinated maritime surveillance operation in which countries cooperate to detect activities such as illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, smuggling and people trafficking, was hosted by FFA over 10 days.

Operation Kurukuru 2009 resulted in 21 boardings of vessels, levying of a $10,000 fine and 3 apprehensions of vessels which were escorted to port for further investigation. In Tuvalu, 1 vessel was fined USD $10,000 for misreporting of fishing catch. The 4 aircraft involved in the operation flew a total of 85 hours and covered approximately 800,000 square nautical miles.

Covering an area of approximately 10 million square kilometres - including the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of Cook Islands, Kiribati, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu – Operation Kurukuru 2009 involved fisheries surveillance and enforcement staff from all of these countries working together with their counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, France and US over 10 days of surveillance.

Surveillance was conducted by individual countries within their respective EEZ’s using 7 Pacific Class Patrol Boats (from Cook Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati and Vanuatu) and 1 French Patrol Boat. This was supported by aerial surveillance provided by 4 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (2 P-3 Orions supplied by Australia & New Zealand, a Guardian supplied by France and a Hercules C-130 from the US Coast Guard).

This year Operation Kurukuru was hosted and coordinated by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) at its regional headquarters in Honiara, Solomon Islands. All countries had access to an FFA web-based map of surveillance flights, licensed vessels and unlicensed vessels, so individual countries were able to send out patrol boats where aerial surveillance had identified suspicious activities or vessels.

However the success of the Monitoring, Control and Surveillance effort by the FFA member countries and the United State and France in the region should not necessarily just be measured by the number of fishing vessels apprehended.  The reduction in the number of vessels conducting illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing is a sure sign that the policing and other measures being taken are working.

Operation Kurukuru is an activity to meet the broader objectives of sustainable fisheries development and management in the Pacific region.  This annual operation held in the Eastern and Western FFA Member countries complements other operations held in the rest of the FFA member countries.

Outcomes in countries include:


In Tuvalu, 1 Korean Flagged FFV the “Dae Yang” was fined USD $10,000 for misreporting of its discarded species on its log books. The vessel
was located by the Tuvaluan Patrol Boat HMTSS TE MATAILI with the assistance of the USCG C130 that was providing aerial surveillance of
the Tuvaluan EEZ.

During the boarding of the vessel, it was discovered that they had breached the conditions of their license and had committed an offence
under the Tuvalu Marine Resources Act 2006, by misreporting their discarded species. The vessel was held by TE MATAILI whilst the
Tuvaluan Department of Fisheries – Fisheries Surveillance Unit, negotiated with the vessels parent company CPK Fishing Company
Limited. A fine in accordance with the Act of USD $10,000 was imposed on the Fishing Company, and after payment of the fine, HMTSS TE
MATAILI released the foreign fishing vessel.


On the last day of Operation Kurukuru, the patrol boat TEANOAI was close to a vessel of interest and pursued it across 400 nautical miles
despite shortage of water and radar defect on the TEANOAI.

They boarded the Sung Hui and found fresh shark fins on board and her crew has stated that they were fishing on Sunday evening 23 Aug 09
(Gilbert EEZ). The ship's master denied the allegations however the Patrol Boat crew are now collecting all evidence with view towards a

Kiribati boarded a total of 16 vessels during Operation Kurukuru and 4 were issued final warnings.


The Patrol Vessel RSIPV AUKI apprehended two foreign fishing vessels which had been operating in Solomon Islands EEZ and Archipelagic
waters during Operation KuruKuru 09. Both were escorted back to Honiara where they are currently the subject of a fisheries


Operations Officer and Coordinator of Operation Kurukuru, Martin Campbell said: “FFA is pleased to coordinate Operation Kurukuru 2009 and thank all the countries and surveillance providers for their contribution to this key regional surveillance operation.”
“For this operation, countries have shared information from the Vessel Monitoring System, Licence Lists and surveillance flights to really get a full picture about what is happening at sea. With this regional surveillance picture, provided continuously by the FFA, countries can prioritise their patrols and send their officers where illegal activities are suspected or likely.”

“This operation continues to demonstrate to those vessels which fish in the region that their day to day movements and activities are being monitored closely to ensure compliance with the regional and national fisheries regulations. Officers have boarded ships in a number of countries during Operation Kurukuru 2009. We are also seeing that fishing vessels know we are closely monitoring them and the number of suspicious vessels we find has dropped over the years.”

“This cohesive and cooperative approach by all the FFA member countries, France and the USA, is in keeping with the direction from the recent Forum Leaders conference which highlighted the need for a regional approach to the monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing in the Pacific region”.

Flight Lieutenant Catherine MacGowan, Air Liaison Officer for the Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K Orion Surveillance aircraft, said:
“The vast area of fisheries in the Pacific poses special challenges to surveillance operations, and the P-3K Orion has the range and endurance to contribute significantly to monitoring of this vast area.  Cooperation between the participants of Operation Kurukuru greatly enhances the effectiveness of air and surface assets conducting patrolling in the EEZ’s of those nations and the adjacent high seas pockets.”

Director of Fisheries Operations of FFA, Luatutu Andre Volentras said: “FFA is proud to be a part of Operation Kurukuru which has brought Pacific Island countries and territories together this week to share information and resources to survey our seas and combat illegal fishing. Using FFA support such as training, the E-Operations Map and FFA Vessel Monitoring System, participants in this operation have demonstrated skills, capability and regional solidarity.”

“Operation Kurukuru is a great example of how information sharing and cooperation between countries can lead to more detection and deterrence of illegal fishing. FFA will assist countries to learn from experiences like these so Pacific Islands can monitor and control their fisheries in future and protect one of the region’s key assets – tuna.”