The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is on maritime operations in the Pacific, monitoring high seas fishing activity for the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and supporting fisheries patrols inside Fiji’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).New Zealand contributes to efforts to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the region, and ensure fisheries are managed effectively for future generations.
Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour said the operating environment had changed with international Covid-19 restrictions which had resulted in reduced patrols in recent months.
The patrols this month have been coordinated with the Republic of Fiji Navy and FFA agencies to help deter and detect illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activity.
Areas of interest will be covered by both maritime and aerial surveillance patrols, Rear Admiral Gilmour said.
The Royal New Zealand Navy offshore patrol vessel HMNZS OTAGO left Devonport Naval Base last week and is currently operating within Fiji’s 1.3 million square kilometre EEZ.
The ship has a SH-2G(I) Seasprite helicopter on board which will provide aerial surveillance over areas and vessels of interest, while crew on a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft are also carrying out patrols as part of the fisheries protection operation.
HMNZS OTAGO, with 80 personnel on board, is working alongside Republic of Fiji Navy vessel RFNS Kikau on the fisheries patrols.
The patrols will be targeting suspicious fishing activity, particularly relating to the highly migratory and commercially valuable yellowfin tuna.
Maritime Component Commander Commodore Mat Williams said that with Covid-19 prevention measures front of mind, the ship’s crew would not be boarding foreign fishing vessels but would be hailing vessels and providing information to the FFA and Fijian authorities to help with the detection and deterrence of illegal fishing activity.
HMNZS OTAGO will stop in Suva on Thursday to refuel. Commodore Williams said refuelling the ship would be carried out without physical interaction between port authorities and members of the crew.
The patrols will continue until the end of the month.
HMNZS OTAGO is an offshore patrol vessel which undertakes a range of roles including patrolling, surveillance, search and rescue, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.