Fisheries Surveillance crucial to protecting Pacific Island economies

As Pacific nations face declines in per capita growth rates of 5.7%, with six years of economic output* projected to be lost due to COVID-19, protecting the contribution of the oceanic fisheries sector has come into sharp focus. Thanks to an ongoing program of surveillance, including Operation Rai Balang last week,  important protections are being provided against the  impacts of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities.

FFA’s Operation Rai Balang 2021 concluded its two-week fisheries surveillance activity last week. The operation provided maritime surveillance across 13.3million square kilometres of the Pacific and achieved 349 sightings and 30 boardings. The operation included 11 surface ships and 6 surveillance aircraft.

Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director General, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said protecting the estimated US$1 billion that goes into Island economies from the oceanic fisheries sector is more important now than ever.

“Protecting the income generated by our oceanic fisheries means protecting the incomes, jobs and livelihoods of many Pacific people,” said Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen. “So many sectors have been decimated by this pandemic but we are doing all we can to protect this income stream.”

Speaking from the FFA’s Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) in Honiara, Commander Robert Lewis reflected that Operation Rai Balang wasn’t just about catching perpetrators.

“This operation brings many benefits to FFA’s member countries,” said Commander Lewis.“It helps build a national skills base across many Pacific nations.  We focus on intelligence driven and targeted operations to create a deterrence effect. There’s been a change towards a culture of greater operational collaboration across the Pacific, and the shared assets participating make the operation more effective.”

“It has also helped us to deliver a sharper picture of what risks this sector faces and how it can be protected. It is sometimes not as obvious as a vessel operating illegally or running “dark”. IUU fishing by the licensed fleet is estimated to account for over 95% of IUU activity in Pacific tuna fisheries. Operation Rai Balang attempted to close these gaps by encouraging FFA Members to actively consider inspections, including monitoring catch and effort reporting, unloading or transhipment, and verification of catch data for licensed vessels during dockside activity or at sea.”

The participants of Op Rai Balang were eight FFA Member states: Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. This was supported by Quadrilateral defence partners: Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States.

Operation Rai Balang is one of four targeted operations hosted by the FFA annually, however regional surveillance is supported 365 days a year through the RFSC Regional Surveillance Picture. The operation also utilised the Aerial Surveillance Program funded by Australia under the Pacific Maritime Security Program, which has a focus on detecting and responding to IUU, but can also be used by Pacific Nations for broader maritime security threats.

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HONIARA: 4th November, 2021
Media Contacts:


Samantha Mattila
FFA Strategic Communications Manager
[email protected] Mob: +61 434 567 673

About the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)

FFA assists its 17-member countries to sustainably manage fishery resources that fall within their 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). FFA provides expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. 

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