Collaboration with our international counterparts is an important part of successful fisheries management. Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) Fisheries Officers routinely conduct joint patrols to help combat the global issue of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
From 21 November to 15 December 2016 two AFMA fisheries officers joined the French Navy on a three week fisheries patrol on board the B2M D’Entrecasteaux, a multi-purpose French Naval Vessel based in Noumea, New Caledonia.
The main aim of the patrol was to investigate the recent sightings of vessels fishing illegally in the vicinity of Chesterfield Reef located to the western edge of New Caledonia’s Exclusive Economic Zone, about 200 nautical miles east of Gladstone.
Combined aerial surveillance provided by France, the Australian Border Force, and the New Zealand Defence Force detected 3 vessels suspected of illegally taking sea cucumber. In a coordinated operation with Australian maritime authorities, one of these vessels was apprehended in the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone by the Royal Australian Navy vessel HMAS Pirie on 30 November (see Vietnamese fishing vessel apprehended near Saumarez Reef).
Later that week, BM2 D’Entrecasteaux on return to Chesterfield Reef (in French waters), boarded a Vietnamese fishing vessel that was alleged to be conducting illegal diving operations on the reef. Upon inspection it was found to have approximately 3.5 tonnes of processed sea cucumber on board. As a result the French authorities seized all the vessels catch and fishing gear.
The success of this patrol illustrates the high level of regional cooperation that exists between Australia, France and New Zealand. For more information on how Australia is combatting IUU fishing go to afma.gov.au.