Eye in the sky

In the Western and Central Pacific, fisheries management is crucial in ensuring healthy fish stocks and the wellbeing of marine ecosystems.

According to the PEW Charitable Trust, tuna catches in these waters totalled about 2.7 million metric tonnes in 2016 — the second-highest amount on record and represented 56 per cent of the global catch.

But challenges in patrolling the vast sea of the Pacific go beyond just ensuring that all that fishing is done legally.

And there are other crimes that pose a threat to maritime security on a daily basis, but small Pacific Island nations lack the technology or funding by to combat them.

Previously unavailable aerial surveillance will change policing of crimes in this region.

The Australian Department of Defence has begun an aerial surveillance service across the Central and Western Pacific region as part of the Government’s $A2 billion ($F3.1b) Pacific Maritime Security program, the agency announced January 28. Once implemented, two long-range aircraft will provide up to 1400 hours of aerial surveillance every year across the Western and Central Pacific region.

According to DoD, the surveillance, in conjunction with the Pacific Patrol program will provide targeted maritime patrol and enhance the ability of Pacific Island countries to defend against regional maritime security threats such as transnational crime and illegal fishing.

In December 2017, testing was conducted in FSM and in February, test flights started in Palau as part of the aerial surveillance component of the multi-million dollar program that will enhance the Pacific region’s capabilities to combat illegal fishing.

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