Operation Kurukuru: Boats, Planes Monitor Pacific Fishing

Keeping an eye on tuna overfishing, smuggling and other fishy activities in the vast reaches of the Pacific Ocean is taking some military-style surveillance efforts.
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Keeping an eye on tuna overfishing, smuggling and other fishy activities in the vast reaches of the Pacific Ocean is taking some military-style surveillance efforts.

Operation Kurukuru 2009, a coordinated maritime surveillance operation just completed by the 17-member-nation Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, used aircraft and boats to tackle a patch of ocean measuring 10 million square kilometers over a 10-day period in August.

The operation resulted in eight boardings of vessels and one apprehension of a vessel, which has been escorted to port for further investigation. In Tuvalu, one vessel was fined $10,000 for misreporting of fishing catch. The four aircraft involved in the operation flew a total of 85 hours and covered approximately 800,000 square nautical miles.

“For this operation, countries have shared information from the Vessel Monitoring System, license lists and surveillance flights to really get a full picture about what is happening at sea,” said Operations Officer and Coordinator of Operation Kurukuru, Martin Campbell. “With this regional surveillance picture, provided continuously by the FFA, countries can prioritize their patrols and send their officers where illegal activities are suspected or likely.”

Operation Kurukuru 2009 involved fisheries surveillance and enforcement staff from several South Pacific island nations and from Australia, New Zealand, France and the Unuted States.

Surveillance was conducted by individual countries using seven Pacific-class patrol boats (from Cook Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati and Vanuatu) and one French patrol boat. This was supported by aerial surveillance provided by four maritime patrol aircraft (two P-3 Orions supplied by Australia and New Zealand, a Guardian supplied by France and a Hercules C-130 from the U.S. Coast Guard.

This year Operation Kurukuru was hosted and coordinated by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) at its regional headquarters in Honiara, Solomon Islands. All countries had access to an FFA web-based map of surveillance flights, licensed vessels and unlicensed vessels, so individual countries were able to send out patrol boats where aerial surveillance had identified suspicious activities or vessels.

Outcomes include:
• Tuvalu’s Patrol Boat boarded and fined a foreign fishing vessel for misreporting its catch.
• Solomon Island’s Patrol Boat boarded and apprehended a foreign fishing vessel for a number of breaches.
• The aerial surveillance effort identified a number of vessels apparently not complying with their FFA registration and license conditions and are the subject of further investigation.

“FFA is proud to be a part of Operation Kurukuru which has brought Pacific Island countries and territories together this week to share information and resources to survey our seas and combat illegal fishing,” sais Director of Fisheries Operations of FFA (Luatutu) Andre Volentras. “Using FFA support such as training, the E-Operations Map and FFA Vessel Monitoring System, participants in this operation have demonstrated skills, capability and regional solidarity. Operation Kurukuru is a great example of how information sharing and cooperation between countries can lead to more detection and deterrence of illegal fishing. FFA will assist countries to learn from experiences like these so Pacific Islands can monitor and control their fisheries in future and protect one of the region’s key assets—tuna.”

Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency www.ffa.int