South Pacific gets international IUU check146 vessel contacts were made during Operation Nasse 2020. Photo: AFMA

A multinational regional maritime surveillance operation illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing on the high seas in the south Pacific Ocean, has concluded.

An annual fisheries operation involving Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group, Operation Nasse seeks to monitor fishing vessels operating in the high seas in conformance with international rules set by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

During the operation 146 vessel contacts were made in the area of operation. In place of physical vessel inspections, 22 vessels were subject to radio interrogation that included questions relating to implementation of by-catch mitigation measures, transhipment activities, presence of observers and duration of their trips. All vessels were registered to fish in the WCPFC Convention area.

Co-ordinated by the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries, Operation Nasse 2020 was supported by sea and air assets provided by participating countries as well as analysts working remotely from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), Maritime Border Command, French Armed Forces, New Caledonia, United States Coast Guard (USCG), and the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).

AFMA’s General Manager of Operations Peter Venslovas said that although COVID-19 presented some obstacles, the strong partnerships that exist between the countries involved ensured Operation Nasse was a success.

“This operation relied heavily on information sharing and demonstrated that working collaboratively with our regional partners is key to an effective Monitoring, Control and Surveillance program,” he said.

“Aerial surveillance enabled our officers to monitor an area of nearly 100,000 square nautical miles, working in concert with surface support by the French Navy Patrol vessel La Glorieuse, the NZ Offshore Patrol Vessel HMNZS Otago and the US Coast Guard Cutter Kimball”.

Aerial surveillance by Australian Maritime Border Command, a multi-agency taskforce within the Australian Border Force, Dash 8s based at Coffs Harbour and the Sunshine Coast covered the high seas adjacent to the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island. Other air assets included RNZAF P3K Orion based in Auckland, French Gardian from Noumea and USCG C-130 aircraft flying from Fiji.

Fishing vessel and fleet profiling, conducted by Australian analysts, assisted the air and sea surveillance assets in prioritising monitoring and surveillance activities to areas where independent monitoring was low.

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