28 September 2022

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) joined the French Armed Forces of New Caledonia (FANC) who hosted the sixth occasion of the international fisheries operation "NASSE".

Organised from May to August within the framework of the Pacific Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group (PQUAD - comprising France, New Zealand, Australia and the United States, this operation aims to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities on the high seas of the South West Pacific, where the rules of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), the regional fisheries management organisation, apply. 

In May, the New South Wales Water Police patrol boat NEMESIS with two AFMA officers as authorised WCPFC inspectors onboard, and the FANC's FNS D’ENTRECASTEAUX carried out patrols as part of Operation NASSE. The patrols were supported by New Zealand P-3K2 Orion and French F200 Gardian aerial surveillance.

For three weeks in July-August the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC), set up in Nouméa within the FANC, co-ordinated the main phase of operations. Two officers each from AFMA, the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries and a liaison officer from the United States Coast Guard (USCG), joined the FANC team.

In total, 18 surveillance flights and 14 high seas boarding and inspections were undertaken, and the WCPFC recorded at least eight infringements, with further infringements pending investigation.

The presence of French, American, Australian and New Zealand officers in the FANC HQ also allowed for improved coordination of resources, facilitated the exchange of tactical information, and ensured direct supervision of the controls, for greater effectiveness.

This joint phase also enabled numerous exchanges of best practices, both on the monitoring of operations and on the implementation of controls at sea.

AFMA’s CEO Mr Wez Norris, said IUU fishing was a shared problem and Operation NASSE continues to demonstrate that international cooperation is crucial.

“These multinational operations provide us with an opportunity to strengthen our relationships with international counterparts, which is essential when fighting illegal fishing.”

“The continuously positive outcomes of Operation NASSE demonstrate that regionally we have the resources, intelligence and capabilities to protect marine natural resources,” Mr Norris said.

The Pacific is home to nearly 60% of the world's tuna stocks and the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) values that approximately 192,000 tons of tuna are associated with IUU fishing there each year. AFMA recognises that cooperation with other countries is vital to successfully combat IUU fishing and to sustainably manage shared fish stocks that cross multiple Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and the high seas. For more information on how Australia is combating IUU fishing visit afma.gov.au.

Operation NASSE is an annual fisheries enforcement operation in the high seas under international jurisdiction. It was created in 2015 at the initiative of the Armed Forces in New Caledonia with the two historical partners Australia and New Zealand. The United States joined the operation the following year. Each year, in turn, a country is designated to activate the Joint Command Centre and host participants from the PQUAD.

FANC – Operation NASSE 2022, putting pressure on illegal fishing – Ministry of the Armed Forces, France