HMNZS Wellington has departed Fiji to begin monitoring operations for illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing for the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) in the Pacific.
Operation Island Chief will involve the New Zealand Defence Force, the Ministry for Primary Industries, and representatives from Fiji.
The ship’s crew will include fishery officers from both New Zealand and Fiji, with officers from Vanuatu also expected to join. A Royal New Zealand Air Force P3K-2 Orion aircraft will also assist the operation.
The Wellington’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Philip Davies said monitoring fishing, and maritime security operations in the South West Pacific were two of the key roles for the Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessels and the Air Force’s maritime patrol aircraft.
“We undertake these operations regularly throughout the year, for the FFA, MPI and at the direct request of Pacific nations,” he said.
“It’s an important job that ensures vessels in the exclusive economic zones and international waters are following best practice fishing methods and helps to maintain sustainable fish stocks.”
MPI Director of Compliance Services, Gary Orr said that the collaboration with the NZDF gave Fishery Officers the reach to patrol a vast area.
“Our team will be boarding and inspecting fishing vessels to ensure they are following all regulations designed to support sustainable fisheries management,” he said.
“A key focus will be inspecting catch records and fish holds for potential offending as well as ensuring they’re using the correct seabird mitigation equipment.
“We’ll also be working alongside Fishery Officers from a number of Pacific Island countries when we patrol their waters so that we can share best practice in fisheries compliance and build both our capabilities and those of our Pacific neighbours.”
Operation Island Chief is one mission in a range of support activities currently being conducted by the New Zealand Defence Force in partnership with Pacific Island countries under Operation Mahi Tahi, until October this year.