The New Zealand Defence Force’s maritime and aerial surveillance crews who have been on patrol in the Southern Ocean have returned home in time for Christmas, having boarded six licensed fishing vessels and checked them for compliance.
CAPTION: A boarding party from HMNZS Otago approaches a foreign fishing vessel to conduct an inspection as part of Operation Castle, in the Ross Sea. NZDF photo.
HMNZS Otago arrived at Devonport Naval Base last night after a month away patrolling the Ross Sea region of the Southern Ocean.
Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Major General Tim Gall said the patrols covered a lot of ocean.
“There was no mistaking the message that we want to get across – we are serious about ensuring compliance with fishing regulations in the Southern Ocean,” Major General Gall said.
“The NZDF is committed to enforcing the government’s pledge to safeguard the unique and fragile environment of the Southern Ocean.”
The NZDF deployed offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Otago and a P-3K2 Orion surveillance aircraft from the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s 5 Squadron to carry out the compliance patrols as part of a multi-agency operation to support the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
CCAMLR works to conserve the Antarctic marine ecosystem and regulate the Southern Ocean fisheries.
Commanding Officer of Otago Lieutenant Commander Lorna Gray said the ship’s company We boarded and inspected six licensed fishing vessels in the Ross Sea region.
“The boarding party consisted of fishery officers from the Ministry for Primary Industries and crew from Otago – and all of the fishing vessels co-operated with the boarding team,” she said.
“While most fishing vessels that operate in the Southern Ocean are compliant, we need to ensure ongoing adherence to the rules that govern the licensed fleet, and guard against the return of illegal operators.
“Fisheries patrols are an important part of this international effort.”
The NZDF conducts an annual patrol during the summer months using Royal New Zealand Navy surface and Royal New Zealand Air Force air assets in support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and CCAMLR.
Otago’s role was to detect and deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activity in support of CCAMLR and promote and protect New Zealand’s interests in the Southern Ocean, in particular the Ross Sea.
The monitoring of fishing activities in the Southern Ocean took on a new impetus this year, with the Ross Sea region Marine Protected Area coming into effect on 1 December with the establishment of the Marine Protected Area.
The NZDF has a key role in making sure its boundaries are respected.