26 Mar 2020

Covid-19: Pacific fisheries surveillance continuing amid pandemic

1:33 pm on 26 March 2020

The surveillance and protection of the Pacific's fish stocks will continue in the face of the global Covid-19 pandemic, says the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency.

RSIPV GIZO, which was used during Op Rai Balang.

RSIPV GIZO, which was used during Op Rai Balang. Photo: Supplied

That comes as the agency prepares to wrap up the multi-country surveillance, Operation Rai Balang, on Friday.

The two-week operation saw coordinated air and surface surveillance assets from eight Pacific Island countries and four regional defence partners covering 14.1 million square kilometres of ocean.

There were 108 sightings and 24 ships boarded during the operation.

No illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing was detected, which the agency said was a sign the region's strict regulations and surveillance measures were working.

Crews involved in boarding had to take extra precautions to abide by health directives on preventing the spread of Covid-19.

"Fishing doesn't stop, so neither will our surveillance," said Commander Robert Lewis, at the FFA's Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre in Honiara.

"Fisheries surveillance in the Pacific is imperative to ensure compliance by the fishing fleets, and deter any illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities.

"Fisheries have a direct benefit for Pacific island counties economies, and that makes surveillance even more important in these unprecedented times."

The Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu were all involved in the operation.

It was supported by Australia, France, New Zealand, the United States, and Pacific Maritime Surveillance Programme aircraft.

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