A coordinated maritime surveillance operation in the Pacific islands region has led to the apprehension of eight fishing vessels, five of which have been escorted to port for further investigation.
Operation Kurukuru 2011 brought together partners to detect, deter and eliminate activities such as illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and other transnational crimes which may have connections with fishing such as smuggling and people trafficking.
It was the single largest monitoring, control and surveillance operation ever conducted in the region and resulted in the sighting of over 400 vessels, the boarding of 80 vessels and the apprehension of eight vessels. A further four vessels have been flagged for potentially conducting IUU fishing activity through analysis of their activities as monitored on vessel monitoring systems (VMSs). Several other vessels were issued citations and fines for fisheries infringements.
The area of operation for Kurukuru 2011 was widespread, covering an area of roughly 30 million square kilometres – including the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. The MCS operation involved fisheries and enforcement staff from all of the FFA Pacific Island countries working together with their Quadrilateral Defence counterparts from Australia, France, New Zealand and the U.S. over the period of the operation.
Significant outcomes of Kurukuru 2011 include:
• First-ever coordinated regional surveillance operation to have had active participation from all 17 Pacific Island members of the FFA and all four Quadrilateral Defence countries;
• The exercise of two Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreements – between Federated States of Micronesia and Palau and between Cook Islands and Samoa, resulting in cooperative surveillance operations occurring within neighbouring country EEZs;
• A Solomon Islands patrol boat boarding and apprehending three foreign fishing vessels, returning them all to port;
• A French patrol boat boarding foreign fishing vessels in the high seas under the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission High Seas Boarding and Inspection scheme for investigative purposes;
• A Tuvalu patrol boat boarding, apprehending and fining a foreign fishing vessel;
• A Federated States of Micronesia patrol boat boarding and issuing citations to three foreign fishing vessels for numerous infractions; and
• Combined aerial and surface surveillance identifying several vessels apparently not complying with their FFA registration and license conditions and are the subject of further investigation.
Hosted by the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Operation Kurukuru ran from November 7 to 14.