Fisheries Officers from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) represented Australia in Operation Kurukuru, a multinational coordinated regional maritime surveillance exercise targeting illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing in the Pacific.
Fifteen Pacific nations participated in the operation, led by the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), and in collaboration with the Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group, which comprises Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States of America.
The 12-day operation covered tuna fishing grounds throughout the Western and Central Pacific Ocean – an area of approximately 21.3 million square kilometres. Two AFMA officers were deployed as sea riders to support patrol boat crews in conducting boardings and inspections of tuna fishing vessels in Tuvalu and Palau waters. One AFMA officer worked with the FFA to coordinate activities from the land based Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
A total of 646 vessels were sighted or remotely sensed and 131 inspections and boardings were conducted both at sea and in port, resulting in four apprehensions of fishing vessels. The operation had support from nine separate aerial surveillance assets, and 14 surface patrol assets.
Operation Kurukuru is conducted annually and aims to foster regional monitoring, control and surveillance capabilities to enhance national food and economic security throughout the Pacific through the sustainable harvest and management of tuna fish stocks. AFMA participates in the exercises because they are undertaken to keep foreign fishing vessels in check. They are fishing for tuna which migrate through Australian waters off our eastern seaboard and they are fished by Australian commercial fishers and recreational anglers.