The Australian Defence Force has completed its latest mission to support the fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activity in the south-west Pacific.
Under Operation Solania, Royal Australian Air Force personnel deployed to Solomon Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau, where they were supported by multi-national efforts led by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
Based in Honiara, the team contributed aircraft to regional maritime surveillance missions over the exclusive economic zones of Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.
Alex Hawke, Assistant Minister for Defence and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, said the engagement supported Australia’s enduring commitment to help south-west Pacific nations protect their natural resources.
"Australia is dedicated to supporting our region and protecting its ocean resources, which are vital to the economies, livelihoods and cultures of many Pacific nations," Minister Hawke said.
Through Operation Solania, Australia helps to protect the maritime domains of 17 Pacific nations, contributing to aerial surveillance and maritime patrols led by the FFA.
Minister Hawke added, "Working alongside our Pacific partners, Defence is helping to maintain the current and long-term viability of the region’s ocean-based industries and livelihoods."
Director of the Air and Space Operations Centre, Group Captain David Smith, said Australia’s participation not only provides a meaningful contribution to Pacific nations, it offers a valuable opportunity to work alongside friends from across the region and share cultural experiences.
"A significant highlight of Operation Solania is the chance for our people to meet local communities, learn from different cultures, and build friendships with the Pacific partners with whom we work," GPCAPT Smith said.
Australia is one of 17 members of the FFA, which is this year celebrating its 40th year of strengthening regional fisheries co-operation.
Australia supports its work in strengthening regional capacity in fisheries management, compliance and enforcement, including co-ordinating efforts to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Operation Solania is the Australian Defence Force contribution to maritime surveillance within the Pacific region.
Operation Solania also supports Operations Kuru Kuru, Big Eye, Island Chief, Tui Moana and Rai Balang, which are co-ordinated maritime surveillance and patrol operations run by the FFA, to detect and deter illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activity.
ADF assets assigned to Operation Solania provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) support to the Pacific Islands Countries. ISR capability provided by the ADF on Operation Solania supports the economic development of Pacific island countries through the protection of fisheries and other resources.
Operation Solania supports the policing of the economic exclusive zones of Pacific island countries, including operations under the Niue Treaty, which was established in July 1992 to enable co-operation in fisheries surveillance and law enforcement among FFA member nations. Operation Solania contributes to a wider multi-national program to provide maritime surveillance support in the Pacific, co-ordinated by the Quadrilateral Defence Coordinating Group.
Members of the Quadrilateral Defence Coordinating Group are Australia, New Zealand, France and the US. ADF assets, including King Air and C-27J Spartan aircraft and Royal Australian Naval ships, are dedicated to Operation Solania tasking periodically.