THE Australian Border Force (ABF) and the PNG Defence Force Maritime Element recently conducted a PNG Government led joint patrol to identify and intercept Vietnamese illegal fishing vessels operating in the vicinity of Budi Budi Island in Milne Bay.

The ABF’s Maritime Border Command (MBC) received a request from the PNG Defence Force Maritime Element for assistance in detecting and intercepting Vietnamese vessels suspected of illegally fishing in PNG waters.

An ABF Dash-8 surveillance aircraft conducted a targeted aerial surveillance flight on 22 December 2016, locating three Vietnamese fishing vessels approximately 350 nautical miles east of Port Moresby, PNG.

The information gathered during MBC’s surveillance mission was shared with the PNG Defence Force Maritime Element and used by the PNG vessel HMPNGS Seeadler to assist with the operation. As a result of MBC’s surveillance, HMPNGS Seeadler was able to target and intercept three illegal fishing vessels; one of these vessels was destroyed and a total of 50 divers were apprehended. The vessels and divers were subsequently transported to Alotau in PNG for further investigations.

Commander MBC, Rear Admiral Peter Laver, said the joint patrol was an excellent example of cooperation in the region to combat maritime threats.

“Australia’s assistance and collaboration with the PNG Defence Force Maritime Element and the PNG Government not only helps protect PNG’s maritime environment and resources, but also contributes to the deterrence effect within the entire region and discourages illegal foreign fishing vessels from venturing further south into Australia’s Fishing Zone,” Rear Admiral Laver said.

“It sends a strong message to all potential illegal foreign fishing vessels that nations in the region are cooperating closely to stop illegal fishing. This ABF support comes after the ABF and PNG Customs recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding for greater cooperation and information exchange. We can expect that Australia and PNGDF will engage at an operational level more closely on a range of issues in the future.”