Multi-national surveillance operations continue to bolster the efforts of Pacific countries to monitor their fisheries.
A regional patrol operation in the South West Pacific involving eleven countries concluded last week with encouraging results.
The eleven day operation, which began 19 May, involved six aircraft and five ships, with 16 police, fisheries and military personnel from seven Forum Fisheries Agency countries.
Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga and Tuvalu joined the four countries of the Quadrilateral Defence Co-ordination Group - New Zealand, Australia, France and the US.
Police, fisheries and military personnel from the Pacific Island countries were trained in the use of vessel monitoring systems.
During the operation 126 vessels were identified for further investigation, including 89 vessels that were located by a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft.
Only minor infringements were found on 57 of the vessels boarded during the operation, which covered the exclusive economic zones of the participating Pacific Island countries and adjacent high seas.
The Agency's Allan Rahari said such multi-national patrols could have led to the notable decline in serious infringements in the past two years.
Acting Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Air Commodore Tim Walshe said the patrol demonstrated the value of collective effort in tackling illegal, unregulated or unreported fishing in the Southwest Pacific.
"By working together with our Pacific neighbours and partners, we were able to pool resources, deploy more personnel, aircraft and ships to the operation, and cover an area totalling six million square kilometres," Air Commodore Walshe said.
"Surveillance by aircraft deployed for the operation also supported the patrolling ships in enforcing fisheries regulations through the boarding and inspection of vessels."
During the recent operation, which covered an area 22 times the size of New Zealand, one vessel that was licensed to catch tuna and tuna-like species was found to have blue marlin in its freezer, while another failed to sign off the log after a day's fishing.
An observer on one vessel that was boarded reported that it had transferred its catch to another vessel - a practice known as "bunkering". The vessel was referred for further investigation.
According to Mr Rahari, the operation trained police, fisheries and military personnel from participating Pacific Island countries were trained on how to use the system at the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre.
"They learnt first-hand how the Operations Room functions during a multi-national, multi-asset operation. They also learnt how to best utilise aircraft in support of surveillance operations," he said.
"The aim is for these officers to apply what they learnt in their own headquarters during their own surveillance operations."
Weather was a significant challenge during the recent patrol, he said.