Pacific leaders welcome aerial surveillance

Forum Fisheries Agency event FFA DG James Movick, Cook Islands PM Hon. Henry Puna, Aust Foreign Min. Marise Payne & Hon. Sen. Anne Ruston. Photo: FFA

Pacific Forum leaders have welcomed the increased air surveillance capacity of the new Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Aerial Surveillance Program funded by Australia under the Pacific Maritime Security Program, PMSP.

In a special event hosted at Nauru International Airport, leaders were able to inspect one of two King Air200 aircraft, fitted with high tech sensor, avionics and communications technologies capable of detecting fishing vessels over a broad range of ocean.

"The Aerial Surveillance program is ensuring we have more Pacific eyes in the sky on fisheries activity across the exclusive economic zones of our Pacific member nations," said FFA director general James Movick.

Increased security capability

Launching the programme, chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee, Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna, commended the efforts of those involved in bringing the initiative to fruition, heralding "a new era in Pacific maritime security capability."

“This program has given regional governments the confidence to add the services of civilian contractors to our on-going support from the QUADS (defence assets of Australia, France, Newm Zealand and the United States),” he said.

The planes will be placed under the operational control of the Forum Fisheries Agency, and provide air surveillance service to FFA member countries, based on regional risk assessments and responding to nationally-determined air surveillance tasking.

Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon. Marise Payne, said: “The aerial surveillance will be provided to 15 Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members in a phased approach with an initial focus on detecting and responding to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing threats, but can also be used for broader maritime security threats.”

The King Air aircraft has been taking part in ‘Operation Frigate Bird’ – a fisheries surveillance operation taking place in Nauru waters. Nauru has partnered with Kiribati to bring the Kiribati patrol boat Teanoai to Nauru, with the new aerial surveillance plane supporting the sea-surface patrol.

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