International collaboration key to protecting Pacific

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority’s (AFMA’s) International Compliance Officer, Andrew, and National Compliance Officer, Alison, recently returned from Operation Aiga (which means ‘family’ in Samoan), on-board the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Cutter Walnut, contributing to fisheries law enforcement and strengthening partnerships in Samoa.

Alison and Andrew joined the USCG crew, including ship riders from Samoa’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, to enforce sovereign laws in their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and to deter illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. This patrol had aerial surveillance support from New Zealand, and the patrol assisted Samoa as they transition to their new, highly capable patrol vessel that Australia will donate later this year.

“Operation Aiga was a great opportunity to share information and expertise between national authorities. We thoroughly enjoyed working with officers from U.S. Coast Guard and Samoa. Sharing information and cooperating with our regional partners is the key to combatting IUU fishing in the Pacific.” – Andrew.

Worldwide, tuna is a USD $7 billion annual industry, and roughly 70 percent of tuna comes from the Western and Central Pacific. IUU fishing in the Pacific Ocean is estimated to cost more than USD $600m a year and it is mainly being carried out by legally licensed fishing vessels. Pacific partners must cooperate to protect the resource and deter IUU fishing. The boats involved are likely fishing the same populations of tuna and billfish that are caught by both commercial and recreational fishers in Australia. Because of this connection, AFMA has a very keen interest in ensuring the rules are followed.

“It was a pleasure to assist the government of Samoa, as part of a bilateral shiprider agreement, in enforcing their maritime sovereignty and resource security to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing within their exclusive economic zone,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Jasnoch, commanding officer, Walnut. “We also had the privilege to strengthen our partnerships with New Zealand and Australia and proved our inter-operability by conducting at-sea manoeuvres with patrol vessels Otago and Choules.”

Operation Aiga is one of several operations conducted by the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and France as part of the Pacific Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group (Pacific QUAD) in support of Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) countries. The Pacific QUAD has historically supported PIF countries in their efforts to combat IUU fishing in their EEZs. This year, the Pacific QUAD expanded the scope of its activities to encompass the broad range of maritime security concerns expressed by the PIF in the 2018 Boe Declaration.

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