Combined maritime surveillance patrols by New Zealand and Fiji agencies recently identified six commercial fishing vessels alleged to have been fishing illegally in a traditional fishing ground.

Aisake Batibasaga, the Director of Fisheries, said Fiji fisheries officers, together with New Zealand and Fiji personnel currently conducting combined maritime patrols, boarded and inspected the vessels in Qelelevu Lagoon in accordance with their legal mandate.

He said the entire catch was confiscated because it was illegally obtained and subsequently thrown back into the sea due to operational and safety concerns.

The alleged offending vessels were also ordered back to port, where their crews were further questioned by Fisheries officers.

Lieutenant Ben Flight, the Commanding Officer of Taupo, said the patrols were progressing smoothly since they began early this month, with personnel from Fiji’s Ministry of Fisheries and Revenue and Customs Service leading the inspections.

He said Fiji Navy sailors were also being trained on Taupo.

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