Operation Wasawasa II begins

Minister for Fisheries Semi Koroilavesau (centre) with the Fiji and New Zealand Naval crew onboard the HMNZS Taupo in Suva. Picture: SUPPLIED

ROYAL New Zealand Navy (RNZN) patrol vessel HMNZS Taupo left the Princes Wharf in Suva to officially commence Operation Wasawasa II yesterday. The HMNZS Taupo is helping Fiji patrol its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) with the surveillance expected to take place around the Suva Peninsula, Lomaiviti waters and Northern Lau group with the help of the Republic of Fiji Navy.

Minister for Fisheries Semi Koroilavesau and New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji, Jonathan Curr, toured the vessel yesterday led by HMNZS Taupo commanding officer Lieutenant Benjamin Flight.

Mr Koroilavesau thanked the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) for its assistance in carrying out the patrols.

“Fiji and its resources will greatly benefit from this exercise with the NZDF,” Mr Koroilavesau said.

Two fishery officers from New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries will support at sea boarding and inspection of fishing vessels as well.

Defence adviser Lieutenant Colonel Josh Wineera said another NZDF vessel, HMNZS Otago, a protector class off-shore patrol vessel, was expected to arrive later in the year to carry out a wider spread surveillance.

“The real big commercial illegal fishing was done at deeper parts of the ocean. So this is where this vessel will come in. It will use planes and ships for the surveillance,” Lt-Col Wineera said.

“There are a lot of maritime safety infringements, litter and small fishing infringements.”

Two officers from the Ministry of Fisheries are also part of the patrol and will assist in carrying out checks and inspections on boarded vessels.

HMNZS Taupo crew will also train Fiji Navy sailors and personnel from Fiji Revenue and Customs Service on its three-month stay.

About 50 Fiji navy sailors, 27 Customs officers and 19 fishery officers trained on inshore patrol vessel HMNZS Hawea under the Operation Wasawasa I last year.

The vessel is expected to berth at the Queens Wharf in Lautoka in seven days time.

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