Poachers pose new regional risk

VIETNAMESE poachers will come under the spotlight when a new Pacific aerial and surface surveillance programme begins in July 2017. Using decrepit vessels and low-paid crew, the Vietnamese-flagged craft known as Blue Boats rape and pillage abalone, clams, beche de mer and other sea creatures which fetch millions of dollars on the Asian market.

The boats typically cross into the Pacific from the east, passing Indonesia and entering Papua New Guinea territorial waters before moving towards Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia. Forum Fisheries Agency Deputy Director General, Wez Norris, said Australian support for a fresh surveillance programme was exciting in terms of stopping the Blue Boats.

“We are looking forward to the opportunity that aerial surveillance will provide in terms of monitoring poachers,” Norris said at the 13th Forum Fisheries Ministerial Meeting in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Poachers – when they are caught – are refused recognition by Vietnam and become the responsibility of the arresting state.

Palau has been forced to accommodate and feed Vietnamese poachers before flying them home. Vietnam has provided no support nor has it attempted to stop poachers from leaving its ports. While PNG and Palau are the main targets of illegal Vietnamese poachers, they have ventured towards Australia’s east coast which is well guarded but vast enough to allow some success for the Blue Boats.

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