9 June 2017
A combined team of New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and Republic of Fiji Navy personnel sent seven of 70 fishing vessels boarded during fisheries patrols in western Fiji in the past week back to port because of licensing and maritime safety issues.
Lieutenant Dave Luhrs, the Commanding Officer of Inshore Patrol Vessel HMNZS Hawea, one of the seven vessels had to be escorted back to Lautoka, in the west of Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island, after it was found to be fishing without a licence.
The boarding team also found that the vessel’s captain did not hold a master’s licence.
The latest patrols focussed on commercial fishing vessels and yachts entering Fiji’s territorial water, Lieutenant Luhrs said.
“Our crew members have integrated well with personnel from the Fijian Navy and other Fijian agencies, and we have been operating together as one team,” he said.
“A strong camaraderie has been built and an effective battle rhythm set, both of which are essential in light of the increased tempo of our patrols.”
The NZDF sent Hawea to Fiji in late April to help patrol its territorial water and Exclusive Economic Zone over the next six months.
Its deployment to Fiji marks the first time that a Royal New Zealand Navy Inshore Patrol Vessel has been deployed to the South Pacific, and fulfils the New Zealand Government’s offer to assist Fiji in maritime surveillance.
Personnel from Fiji’s Ministry of Fisheries and Forest, Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority and the Republic of Fiji Navy, as well as New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries, are taking part in the patrols.
Captain Humphrey Tawake, the Chief of the Republic of Fiji Navy, said Hawea’s deployment to Fiji was a big help in protecting the South Pacific country’s maritime resources and training its Navy personnel.
“The value that the Republic of Fiji Military Forces place on New Zealand assisting us with our maritime security is such that our Prime Minister, who is in New York this week co-chairing the UN Oceans Conference, mentioned in one of his speeches the work that Hawea is doing” Captain Tawake said.