Wednesday, 18 September 2019, 10:24 amPress Release: New Zealand Defence Force
A multi-national, interagency, high seas fisheries patrol insupport of the sustainable management of Pacific tunafisheries has recently concluded with high levels ofcompliance found.
Although bad weather affected thepatrol, nine fishing vessels were inspected with threealleged offences detected during the patrol.
A positivetrend apparent was the increased level of compliance withinthe licensed fleet compared with previous years. Rules areput in place on the high seas by the Western Central PacificFisheries Commission (WCPFC) which are designed to not onlyprotect the tuna stocks from overfishing but to alsominimise fishing impact on the surrounding marine ecosystem.
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) provides operationalsupport to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) forfisheries patrols.
Royal New Zealand Navy offshore patrolvessel HMNZS Otago patrolled international waters adjacentto the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of New Zealand,Samoa, Tokelau, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Tonga and Fijiwhile Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraftsupported the patrol with forward air support. The patrolwas also carried out in conjunction with Australia, Franceand the United States.
Maritime Component Commander,Commodore Tony Millar, Acting Commander Joint Forces NewZealand, said the NZDF regularly worked with MPI bydeploying ships and aircraft to assist New ZealandsPacific neighbours with fisheries monitoring andsurveillance activities.
These patrols are important asthey support our Pacific neighbours in the sustainablemanagement of the Pacific tuna fisheries, CommodoreMillar said.
The Commanding Officer of HMNZS Otago,Lieutenant Commander Ben Martin, said the ship supported MPIwith boarding teams, and maritime aviation via the SH2ISeasprite helicopter that was embarked on the ship.
Otago was involved in extensive patrols over a largearea of the South West Pacific, hailing and boarding fishingand transhipment vessels. The boardings found a number ofcompliant and non-compliant vessels, he said.
Thepatrols are carried out to ensure compliance with theWestern Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Treaty whichwas established in 2000 for the conservation and sustainablemanagement of highly migratory species including tuna,billfish and marlin.
During the inspections, catch recordsare checked, holds are inspected and the boarding partymakes sure the vessels fishing equipment meetsregulations.
MPI spokesperson Steve Ham, FisheriesCompliance Manager, said that overall the levels ofcompliance were high but the non-compliance identifiedshowed the importance of boarding inspections at sea.
Allmatters of non-compliance had been referred back to theresponsible flag state for investigation, he said. Inprevious years non-compliance like this had resulted insanctions such as fines, skippers removed from the fisheryand companies having fishing permits revoked.
One memberof the boarding party was HMNZS Otago Able ElectronicTechnician (AET) Timothy Ong, who speaks Mandarin and wasable to communicate with Chinese fishing captains, gainingvaluable information about their fishing activities.
Itwas also during the patrol in the Pacific that the crew of aP-3K2 Orion located a Chinese fishing vessel damaged by fireand arranged for the ships sister ship to rendezvous withthe stricken vessel. The next day the P-3K2 located a memberof the ships crew who had gone overboard, dropping a liferaft to the man who had been in the water for about 50 hoursby that stage. All 18 crew members were rescued.
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