21 September 2018
About 160 vessels in Fijian waters were inspected during combined maritime surveillance patrols by New Zealand and Fiji agencies since June.
For the second consecutive year, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) deployed Royal New Zealand Navy vessels to help Fiji patrol its Exclusive Economic Zone of more than 1.2 million square kilometres.
“This year’s patrols have been another tremendous success – as a deterrent to potential illegal fishing and as a demonstration of our shared commitment with Fiji to protect fishery resources,” Major General Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said at the conclusion of the combined operation yesterday.
“By assisting Fiji authorities in patrolling their waters and policing their borders we hope we have helped clamp down on illegal fishing and helped protect the livelihoods of communities.”
The first phase of this year’s patrols was conducted by inshore patrol vessel HMNZS Taupo, with offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Otago taking over in September. Six fishery officers and two shore-based fisheries analysts from New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) supported at-sea boarding and inspection of target vessels.
Fiji’s Director of Fisheries Aisake Batibasaga said the NZDF and MPI provided excellent support to Fiji authorities in enforcing their fisheries rules and regulations.
“This was particularly beneficial for the management of important inshore fisheries resources, because the patrols coincided with the Government’s implementation of the ban on the harvest, sale and possession of grouper and coral trout during their peak breeding seasons,” Batibasaga said.
The completion of the patrols did not signify the end of the enforcement effort, he said.
“Fish is a valuable component of our food security and there will be no let-up in Fiji’s efforts to protect its fishery resources. The Ministry will continue to build on the initiatives that the New Zealand support helped develop.”
Fiji authorities have taken action against vessels that allegedly breached inshore fishing regulations and have vowed to continue monitoring fishing activity to protect their fishery resources for the benefit of future generations.
Lieutenant Commander Lorna Gray, the Commanding Officer of Otago, said about 23,000 kilometres were covered and 1,160 hours were spent on patrol during the combined operation, which also involved personnel from the Republic of Fiji Navy, Fiji’s Ministry of Fisheries, Revenue and Customs Service and MPI.
“Working with Fiji enforcement agencies has been a great opportunity for cooperation and interaction between our sailors and their Fiji counterparts,” Lieutenant Commander Gray said.
Thirty-one sailors from the Fiji Navy trained on Taupo and Otago, focussing on core mariner skills and increasing their knowledge within their chosen trades, she said.
NZDF’s combined maritime surveillance patrols with Fiji enforcement agencies (as at 20 September 2018):
• Number of vessels inspected: 156
• Distance covered during the patrol: about 23,000 kilometres (equivalent to 5.3 return trips from New Zealand to Fiji)
• Size of patrol area: approximately equivalent to 5 times the land mass of New Zealand
• Number of hours spent on patrol: about 1,160
• Number of Republic of Fiji Navy sailors trained: 31
• Other agencies involved in the patrol: Republic of Fiji Navy, Ministry of Fisheries, Fiji Revenue and Customs Service and New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries