July 14, 2016 - Fisheries patrols conducted by the New Zealand Defence Force together with the Ministry for Primary Industries and Pacific Islands countries have continued their run of success, with 34 commercial fishing vessels boarded in the south-west Pacific since June. The operation is sponsored by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Fisheries patrols conducted by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) together with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Pacific Islands countries have continued their run of success, with 34 commercial fishing vessels boarded and 36 breaches detected during the inspections in the south-west Pacific since the operation began in June.
The operation, sponsored by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, saw boarding teams – comprised of crew from the Royal New Zealand Navy’s offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Otago and compliance officers from MPI and Pacific Islands countries – conducting 34 inspections during patrols in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of Fiji, Niue, Tokelau and Tuvalu.
“The patrols highlighted the excellent collaboration between the crew of Otago and representatives from Pacific Islands countries and MPI. This was vital as we worked together in often challenging conditions,” said Lieutenant Commander (LTCDR) Andrew Sorensen, Commanding Officer of HMNZS Otago.
LCDR Sorensen said the boarding teams detected 36 breaches during the inspections. These breaches included unmarked fishing gear, licensing issues and the discarding of rubbish, and will be fully investigated by each Pacific Islands country and supported by New Zealand if requested.
“The operation is significant in terms of raising compliance levels within the Pacific region and also for the direct support that the Pacific nations receive. Although the number of breaches detected was disappointingly high, it showed the importance of ‘at sea’ boarding and inspection as a tool for raising compliance levels and of implementing measures that ultimately support the effective management of Pacific tuna fisheries,” MPI Chief Operations Officer Andrew Coleman said.
HMNZS Otago left New Zealand on 5 June to conduct fisheries patrols in the south-west Pacific over the next two months. Port visits to several Pacific Islands countries were also scheduled as part of defence diplomacy activities.
MFAT’s Pacific Security Fund supported the participation of compliance officers from MPI and Pacific Islands countries. The patrols were also supported by NZDF and MPI personnel in New Zealand who worked hard to ensure that HMNZS Otago had all the information she needed to plan and carry out the operation.
“For several years now, the NZDF has been deploying its ships and aircraft to conduct maritime patrols to assist south Pacific Islands countries in protecting their fishery resources,” said Captain (CAPT) Dave McEwan, the Acting Maritime Component Commander.
CAPT McEwan said offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington will sail to the south Pacific on 18 July to conduct further fisheries patrols.