Un-Announced boarding’s of 69 fishing vessels, confiscation and torching of fishing tenders and gear and citings of 6 more boats were the highlights of the recently completed annual Rai Balang maritime surveillance sweep in the North Pacific. Rai Balang is one of four annual regional monitoring control and surveillance operations aimed at stopping illegal, unreported and unregulated, or IUU fishing, in the Pacific. It gained its name from the stone money that used to be traded between Palau and the Federated States of Micronesian state of Yap and represents the strong bond between the two Micronesian nations.
Led by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, FFA, the timing of all surveillance exercises is a closely guarded secret involving FFA’s Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre, Maritime, Fisheries and Police officials in participating member countries, and support from the aerial and naval resources of the United States, France, New Zealand and Australia. FFA says in a statement the latest Operation Rai Balang sends a clear message to vessels in Pacific waters fishing in breach of their license agreements, or without a licence: ‘you will be caught.’
“Rai Balang 2014 saw a high number of infringements, with Palau’s confiscation of fishing gear from two unlicensed fishing vessels and the holding of a crew abandoned by their vessel as it beat a hasty retreat from capture by authorities,” said the statement from FFA. “In FSM, one patrol boat issued citations to half of the ten boardings it conducted.” “The record year for Rai Balang did not just come from its 39 sightings, 67 boardings, and 8 infringements.
The use of automated data analysis tools by the FFA Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (which doubled as the Joint Coordination Centre), detected dozens of cases of interaction between fishing, transhipment and bunker vessels.”
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