The Australian Defence Force has contributed to the ongoing fight against illegal fishing in the south-west Pacific through the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency’s (FFA) Operation RAI BALANG.
A Royal Australian Air Force B300 King Air and C-27J Spartan, and the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Maryborough deployed in support of the operation, conducted maritime surveillance patrols from 12 to 26 March 2020.
Joining 13 other nations, the Australian contingency assisted surveillance of the maritime territories of the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Palau, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
Chief Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, said Australia’s commitment to the FFA delivered under Operation Solania help protect the maritime-based economies of the Pacific.
“We recognise that ocean resources are a vital part of Pacific Island nations’ economies and protecting these economic exclusion zones from fishing exploitation is crucial,” LTGEN Bilton said.
“Together, Australia and our south-west Pacific partners are safeguarding the long-term sustainability of local fishing industries and reducing environmental impacts.
“We have developed strong working relationships with our regional partners and organisations to support enduring participation in Operation Solania, as well as other ongoing Pacific maritime security activities.”
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.
During the course of the mission, approximately 14.1 million square kilometres were covered, with 108 sightings and 24 boardings occurring.