Faces of fisheries – AFMA’s National Surveillance and Response team

The National Surveillance and Response unit is a team of six fisheries officers who work primarily within the Australian Maritime Border Operations Centre as part of Australia’s Maritime Border Command. The team plays a vital role in detecting and deterring illegal fishing in the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ) and areas of interest outside the AFZ, as well as providing fisheries input into Australia’s civil maritime security program. We work closely with the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Border Force delivering specialist fisheries advice when conducting surveillance or investigations and apprehensions of foreign fishing vessels.

Our team has worked within Maritime Border Command for the last 12 years and have played an important part in reducing illegal fishing in Australia’s waters. AFMA’s fisheries expertise, together with support from partner agencies and international counterparts, has reduced the numbers of illegal foreign fishing vessels from an all-time high of 367 in a 12-month period in the mid-2000s to just 14 in 2017-18. This coordinated approach is also particularly evident in the Southern Ocean where there are now no known illegal fishing vessels currently in operation in Australia’s area of interest.

Our team members bring a range of skills and backgrounds to the role, from law enforcement officers to fisheries managers and policy writers. Our team members bring their knowledge and experience to a working environment that is forever changing and unpredictable. We are on call to respond to and advise on issues relating to illegal fishing 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On any given day, we may be coordinating the deployment of fisheries officers on patrol vessels, authorising the apprehension of suspected illegal foreign fishing vessels or communicating directly with a variety of foreign fishing vessels regarding their movements through Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

In addition, we work closely with our international counterparts in sharing intelligence and planning regional fisheries operations to further enhance our abilities to detect and deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The team is required to be across any number of issues relating to fishing activities at both a foreign and domestic level. We are law enforcers, information analysts, stakeholder liaisons, relationship builders, decision makers and problem solvers. It’s an exciting job where no two days are the same.

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