In a special event hosted at the Nauru International Airport, Leaders inspected one of two King Air 200 aircraft, fitted with high tech sensor, avionics and communications technologies capable of detecting fishing vessels over a broad range of ocean.
“The aerial surveillance ensures we have more Pacific eyes in the sky on fisheries activity across the exclusive economic zones of our Pacific member nations,” said FFA director general James Movick. "Today is an exciting milestone for fisheries surveillance, as well as broader law enforcement supporting the protection of our oceanic resources for the benefit of our people."
Cook Islands prime minister and Forum Fisheries Committee chairman Henry Puna launched the programme commending the efforts of those involved in bringing the initiative to fruition, heralding “a new era in Pacific maritime security capability.”
"On behalf of (Forum) leaders, I acknowledge with gratitude Australia’s 30-year support towards our region’s maritime surveillance capacity, initially through the Pacific Patrol Boat programme and now this added capability of aerial surveillance.
This programme has given regional governments the confidence to add the services of civilian contractors to our ongoing support from the QUADS (defence assets of Australia, France, New Zealand and the US).
The planes will be placed under the operational control of the FFA, and provide air surveillance service to FFA member countries, based on regional risk assessments and responding to nationally-determined air surveillance tasking.
Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Marise Payne, said the Pacific Maritime Security Program was a major part of Australia’s defence cooperation work in the Pacific, and a commitment of Australia’s support to the Pacific region over the next 30 years.
“I would encourage Pacific leaders to take the opportunity of being local air observers when the King Air is in your country and to witness how the aircraft, working with your Pacific patrol boat, can enhance maritime domain awareness.
“The aerial surveillance will be provided to 15 FFA members in a phased approach with an initial focus on detecting and responding to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing threats, but can also be used for broader maritime security threats.”