Monday, 15 September 2008 10:39 AM

'Operation Kurukuru 08'- Biggest in the Region

Solomon Islands is host to the biggest maritime surveillance in the Region called the 'Operation Kurukuru 2008'.

Operation Kurukuru is a coordinated maritime surveillance operation in which countries cooperate to detect activities such as illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, smuggling and people trafficking.

500 people were actively involved in Operation Kurukuru 2008 which resulted in locating 300 foreign fishing vessels in the area of operations, 20 of which were considered worthy of further investigation after analysis. 30 days of patrol at sea were provided plus the four aircraft involved in the operation undertook 100 hours of aerial surveillance.

Covering an area of 10.6 million square kilometres - including the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of Cook Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu - Operation Kurukuru 2008 involved surveillance and law enforcement staff from all of these countries working together with their counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, France and US over 12 days of surveillance.

Surveillance was conducted by individual countries within their respective EEZ's using 8 Pacific Class Patrol Boats (from Cook Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga (2), Tuvalu, Kiribati and Vanuatu), 4 US Coast Guard Cutters and 1 French Frigate.

This was supported by aerial surveillance provided by 4 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (2 P-3 Orions supplied by Australia & New Zealand, a Guardian supplied by France and a Hercules C-130 from the US Coast Guard).

Operation Kurukuru 2008 was coordinated by a team based in the Solomon Islands Police Force Maritime Unit's newly launched Operations Room, upgraded with funding from the Australian Defence Cooperation Program.

The Operations Room relies on access to the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) E-Operations system which collects, displays and analyses aircraft and vessel movements over the entire operations area in an interactive display. By collating information from regional and national licence and suspected illegal fishing lists, the E-Operations system can identify and monitor suspicious vessel.

Regional surveillance staff, trained by FFA in how to use the E-Operations system, then can prioritise their operations efforts, contact national staff and make decisions on where to allocate surveillance aircraft and patrol boats.

Operation Kurukuru 2008 also involved participation by United States Navy as an observer in the regional headquarters with a view to providing aircraft participation next year for the first time, signing of an enduring VMS data sharing agreement by Samoa with all other FFA members and a visit by Australian Defence Minister Hon Joel Fitzgibbon on 10 Sep to view the operation in progress.

Operation Kurukuru is an activity to meet the broader objectives of sustainable development and regional security of The Pacific Plan.


Press Release (Operation Kurukuru)

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By STEVE BANI Vura Heights, East Honiara
By GEOFFREY MAURIASI USP, Lacuala Campus, Fiji
By CHARLES KOULI Gizo, Western Province