Operation Tui Moana, a regional fisheries surveillance operation, celebrates 20 years of fighting illegal fishing in the Pacific waters of Tonga, Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau, and Tuvalu.
The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) highlighted this milestone with the UN International Day for the Fight against Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing marked on June 5 around the world.
FFA Director of Fisheries Operations, Allan Rahari said recognizing Operation Tui Moana’s contribution to protect over six million sq kms of ocean is particularly relevant on this day.
“In my own experience of working on Tui Moana over the last 13 years I’ve seen a real evolution in how we respond to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” he said.
“We see less “dark”, or unlicensed, vessels but are responding to more issues around licensed vessels contravening their conditions, especially though misreporting and under-reporting their catches and through unauthorised transhipment.”
“We have increasingly focused on intelligence gathering and analysis, providing targeted information before and during operations in order to support surveillance activities by Pacific countries.”
Utilising the latest technology such as dark vessel detection and satellite monitoring has also improved our success rates, he added.
FFA’s Director General, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen acknowledged the importance of Pacific collaboration in securing the region from illegal activities.
“This is a significant milestone in our commitment to protecting our economically important fisheries.”
“We are so grateful to our members and partners for standing with us to deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in our waters over such a significant amount of time. The strength of our partnerships has been especially notable and enhanced during the COVID-19 crisis.”
Despite the challenges of COVID, five Pacific patrol vessels were scheduled to participate in Operation Tui Moana this week, alongside one maritime surveillance aircraft from the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
FFA conducts four operations every year, with Tui Moana the second this year.
FFA has been providing surveillance support to the Pacific region for 42 years. Traditionally Pacific QUAD partners, Australia, New Zealand, France and the United States, provide support through aerial and surface surveillance, alongside the FFA Aerial Surveillance Programme aircraft and Pacific Island country patrol boats, further enhancing the maritime surveillance coverage during each operation.