A special aerial surveillance team of four from the Pacifics Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) arrived on the island a week ago to undergo their mission in Niue of surveilling over Niue’s waters.
The team included Pilots Virgil Wilson and Dean Paul, James Sanborn who is the aircraft maintenance engineer and the sensor operator Andrew Ignacio.
BCN News spoke with Pilot Virgil Wilson on Thursday last week who shared more about the purpose of their mission to Niue.
“We are here to provide aerial surveillance for the PMSP Program and aid your local fisheries department and find any illegal fishing vessels or other vessels in your economic zones. We have not picked up anything out of the ordinary. We are happy to say our surveillance is running along as planned,” says Virgil.
According to a joint media release issued this morning by the Niue Government and Australia High Commission to Niue, Minister for Natural Resources Hon. Mona Ainu’u said that “the ocean is very important to Niue and our people.”
Minister Ainu’u says that “as a member of the FFA and a Party to the Niue Treaty, we rely on our neighbours such as Cook Islands, Tonga and Samoa for their use of their patrol boats to monitor our EEZ, and the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) to monitor our EEZ.”
Minister Ainu’u says that having access to aerial surveillance provides an invaluable opportunity for Niue in regards to monitoring its Exclusive Economic Zone.
In the press statement, the Australian High Commissioner to Niue H.E. Louise Ellerton stated that “we have a shared responsibility to sustainably manage the Pacific Ocean and its resources.”
“Illegal activities in our Pacific waters including illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and drug trafficking is a concern in the Pacific, having potentially significant economic and social impacts on our Pacific peoples. By taking a coordinated approach to combat and deter these illegal activities, the Pacific countries can more efficiently allocate their limited resources to better monitor and address illegal activities in their waters.”
The Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP) is an Australian funded program that integrates the Aerial Surveillance Program. The aerial services are available to all FFA member countries, excluding New Zealand and Australia, and it enhances the surveillance capacity of Pacific countries to improve maritime security and build maritime domain awareness.
“I am delighted the team were able to successfully complete surveillance flights across the beautiful waters surrounding Niue,” says H.E. Ellerton.
After an eight-day period, the mission was finally able to conclude their mission yesterday on the 20th of February.