Australian authorities move in on illegal foreign fishers
Six foreign fishing vessels in the Western Pacific Ocean were boarded by officers from the Maritime Border Command (MBC), a multi-agency task force within the Australian Border Force (ABF), and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) during an 11-day operation with the identification of 13 potential breaches, AFMA has confirmed.
Operation NASSE, a multi-lateral regional maritime surveillance operation between Australia, the United States, France, and New Zealand, ran from 3 to 13 July and covered the waters between exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of regional countries. Its aim was to deter illegal fishing in some of the most intensely fished sea lanes in the region, the Western and Central Pacific Oceans.
Together, the operation resulted in the boarding of 27 foreign fishing vessels with 30 potential breaches of fisheries laws being reported.
Agencies from each of the participating countries collaborated in the planning and coordination of assets as well as providing an at-sea response capability and air surveillance support during the operation. This included an ABF Dash-8 surveillance aircraft and Australian Defense Vessel (ADV) Cape Fourcroy with officers from AFMA on board.
MBC Acting Commander Jo Crooks said the area was well-known as an area frequently visited by illegal fishing ventures.
“This multinational effort showcases the strengthened patrolling of these waters and efforts to protect the maritime and fisheries environment of the broader region,” Crooks said. “Information gathered will contribute to a more accurate picture of fishing activity and the health of fish stocks in the areas patrolled.”
AFMA General Manager Operations Peter Venslovas said that the close collaborative efforts of Australian authorities and neighboring countries demonstrates the commitment to combatting and preventing illegal fishing.
“This multilateral operation saw AFMA and MBC working closely with regional counterparts to patrol fishing grounds on the high seas which are next to Australian waters,” Venslovas said. “These exercises are important to keep foreign fishing vessels in check because they are fishing for some highly migratory species that are also found in Australian waters.”
The operation’s objective was to board and inspect foreign-flagged fishing vessels to verify compliance with measures adopted by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFP).