Region’s biggest annual maritime surveillance operation acts to stop illegal fishing




Operation Kurukuru 2012, a coordinated maritime surveillance operation in which countries cooperate to detect activities such as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, smuggling and people trafficking, was hosted by the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) over the last two weeks.

Operation Kurukuru 2012 resulted in 323 vessels sighted and 206 vessel boarded and inspected, more than twice as many as were conducted during the same operation in 2011. These efforts resulted in 27 infringements, some of which are now the subject of ongoing investigations. The 5 aircraft involved in the operation flew a total of over 80 hours, surveying the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of many of the Pacific Island Countries as well as adjacent high seas areas.

Covering an area of approximately 30 million square kilometers - including the EEZs of Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu – Operation Kurukuru 2012 involved fisheries surveillance and enforcement staff from all of these countries working together with their Quadrilateral Defence Cooperation counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, France and the United States over a busy two week period.

Surveillance was conducted by individual countries, within respective EEZs, using 10 Pacific Class Patrol Boats (from Cook Islands, 2x Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu), 2 French Patrol Boats and a frigate, and a US Coast Guard Cutter. This was supported by aerial surveillance provided by 5 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (2 F200 Gardian’s and a CN235 Casa supplied by France, a P3 from the US Navy and a C-130 Hercules from the US Coast Guard).

Operation Kurukuru was planned, hosted and coordinated by the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) from its Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) located at the headquarters in Honiara, Solomon Islands. Via secure login, all countries had access to an FFA web-based Regional Surveillance Picture containing fishing vessel contacts, satellite data, surveillance flight plans and vessel patrol plans and indicators highlighting vessels of interest in the region. This equipped the nations with valuable data to determine where best to send their patrol boats to target where aerial and surface surveillance and analysis in the RFSC had identified suspicious activities or vessels.

Outcomes include:

· ADF training team worked with Kiribati Police Maritime prior to the operation.

· A Micronesia patrol boat conducted 27 boarding’s, identifying 13 violations in their EEZ.

· US Coast Guard enacted the ship-rider agreement with Samoa and Tonga, conducting boarding’s in their EEZs.

· Micronesia and Palau patrolled each others’ EEZs under Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement

· The Kiribati patrol boat conducted 24 boarding’s.

· A French patrol boat identified 9 violations during 9 boarding’s in the High Seas Pocket.

The success of the Monitoring, Control and Surveillance effort by the FFA member countries and their surveillance partners in the region of the United States and France should not necessarily just be measured by the number of fishing vessels apprehended or violation detected. The deterrence effect of enforcement vessels looming over the horizon or an aircraft overflying fishing vessels cannot be overstated in efforts to counter those who would seek to plunder the oceans surrounding the FFA members’ nations.

Operation Kurukuru is an activity to meet the broader objectives of sustainable fisheries management and development in the Pacific region. This annual operation, held in the Eastern and Western FFA Member countries, complements other operations held in the rest of the FFA member countries.