Another comprehensive maritime surveillance operation wound up its annual phase for 2014 on the weekend, with Operation Tui Moana ending a ten-day operation on Friday evening.
TUI MOANA 2014 (OPTM14) stretched from 14-23 May across the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and high seas of Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Niue, Tokelau and Tuvalu. Opportunities also arose throughout the operation to extend coverage into the EEZs of Kiribati (Phoenix), Australian, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia with their cooperation.
Coordination and planning of Tui Moana involved patrol boats, aerial and national HQ surveillance of more than 2m square kilometres of ocean, and months of networking led by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) staff.
Several cases remain open for investigation, and there was one apprehension from the 200+ remotely sensed/sighted vessels and the 30 vessels boarded during Operation Tui Moana. FFA Director General James Movick says regional cooperation on maritime surveillance continues the enduring message of vigilance against illegal, unreported and unlicensed fishing.
“The statistics for fishing vessels encountered in this Operation were lower than ever before, and this matches the current economic conditions in the long line fishery, the predominant fishery in Tui Moana ocean area.”
“With catch rates and product prices relatively low, we have seen numerous fleets tie up lately. Now more than ever, it is important that surveillance efforts maintain a high standard of vigilance. It is an unfortunate fact that when times are tough, the incentives for illegal fishing are greater so it is important to reinforce the message that Pacific nations and our surveillance partners are monitoring and aware of what’s happening in our fishing waters,” he says.
Tui Moana operations have been undertaken annually in Polynesia for the last 13 years. In 2014, surveillance tracking by the seven aircraft, four member country patrol boats, and three naval ships revealed EEZs provided the largest capability ever.
Patrol boats from Samoa, Tuvalu and two from Tonga took part in this multi-lateral Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Operation, supported from the air with 210 flying hours by military surveillance aircraft. These came from the Quadrilateral Defence partners of Australia and New Zealand, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and two aircraft each from French Polynesia and New Caledonia. The flights cost the Quadrilateral partners a total of over USD$4 million. The French Armed-forces New Caledonia also provided a frigate (FNS VENDEMIAIRE) and a patrol Boat (LA GLORIEUSE) whilst the USCG also supplied USCGC WALNUT to patrol the region. USCGC WASHINGTON, though outside of the region, also reported fishing vessel contacts and conducted boardings in the Palau EEZ.
Inspector Tepaki Baxter from the Cook Islands, Police Officer Simaile Tautaititi from Samoa and Sub-Lieutenant Azania Fusimalohi from Tonga supported the operation by watch keeping at the FFA RSFC’s Joint Coordination Centre in Honiara and similar regional crossover happened at sea. Australia’s Fisheries Management Authority provided two senior fisheries officers to sea-ride VENDEMIAIRE. Samoa and Cook Islands Fisheries/Police officers were deployed on WALNUT and Cook Islands Fisheries and Police Officers joined the Samoa’s Patrol Boat NAFANUA.
FFA's Director General Movick noted Tui Moana as the final operation for Commander Mike Pounder of the Royal Australian Navy, who plans and coordinates these multilateral operations in the role of Surveillance Operations Officer in FFA’s Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC), as he ends his three-year term with the FFA RSFC and returns to Canberra later this year.
“We have seen the FFA RSFC grow in strength and effectiveness since Mike has joined the team and extend our appreciation for the diligence and capacity- building he has brought to national Maritime HQ’s in the region, “ says Movick.
“Through his efforts we have seen ongoing improvements in communications, data and information sharing between all the diverse partners in Pacific maritime surveillance over our regional fisheries.”
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. Movick also thanked the defence 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.
Original FFA press statement here