Operation Island Chief, a Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency-led surveillance operation covering 18.4 million square kilometres, came to a successful closure Friday.
FFA Director Fisheries Operations, Allan Rahari said that despite the 10-day Operation covering a substantial area it was bolstered by local knowledge and expertise.
“Island Chief, one of four operations conducted annually, is a massive operation that covers the Pacific waters of 11 participating FFA member nations – Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, the Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu,” said Rahari.
The operation involved close to 500 personnel from the navy, police, air force and national fisheries bodies in the Pacific. Papua New Guinea also chartered an aircraft and two vessels to conduct surveillance.
The FFA Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) team, supported by seven officers from the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF), Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, and Australian Defence Force (working remotely due to COVID), provided intelligence gathering and analysis, supplementing targeted information before and during the operation in order to support surveillance activities by Member countries.
“Regional collaboration, the sharing of resources and intel, and the ongoing training and strengthening of local expertise is a critical cornerstone of the success of our surveillance operations.
“The capacity building that has been ongoing over the last four decades, has meant we have some real depth in expertise in our Pacific personnel.
“We’d also like to thank and acknowledge our international partners who have a long history of support for these important Pacific surveillance operations,” Rahari said.
Pacific QUAD partners, Australia, New Zealand, France and the United States, provided support through aerial and surface surveillance, alongside the FFA Aerial Surveillance Programme aircraft, further enhancing the maritime surveillance coverage during the operation. 12 ships, eight aircraft and dark vessel detection technology rounded out the assets included in this complex operation.
FFA has been conducting surveillance operations in partnership with its Member countries and partners for over forty years. The Operations have seen increasing levels of success with actions to tackle IUU evolving from previously being about protecting against illegal boats entering the fishery to being more around policing the operations of licensed vessels who haven’t followed the rules and regulations governing their activities. The Pacific region is a vast expanse and collaboration across the many partners, providing personnel and assets, is crucial to ongoing success.