New Zealand has joined forces with a number of Pacific island countries to protect the fishing rights of Fiji, Niue, Tokelau and Tuvalu.
Fisheries patrols conducted by the New Zealand Defence Force together with the Ministry for Primary Industries and Pacific Islands countries have announced that 34 commercial fishing vessels were boarded and 36 breaches detected during the inspections in the south-west Pacific since the operation began in June.
HMNZS Otago left New Zealand on 5 June to conduct fisheries patrols in the south-west Pacific over two months. Port visits to several Pacific Islands countries were also scheduled as part of defence diplomacy activities.
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 and compliance officers from the Ministry of Primary Industries and Pacific Islands countries conducting 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 Island countries...This was vital as we worked together in often challenging conditions,” said Lieutenant Commander Andrew Sorensen, Commanding Officer of HMNZS Otago.
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.
“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,” Ministry of Primary Industries Chief Operations Officer Andrew Coleman said.
Offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington will sail to the south Pacific on 18 July to conduct further fisheries patrols.