No finding from mystery vessels search

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SURVEILLANCE over Temotu seas for reported unknown vessels has come up empty.

In response to MFMR and FFA request, a French aircraft from the French Navy based in Noumea, New Caledonia, conducted a reconnaissance flight over sea areas in Temotu on Wednesday this week but could not locate vessels of interest in the area.

Acting on reports of sightings at night by people living in communities on Vanikoro, Nupani and Duff islands of vessels coming close to the shore and isolated reefs, the Ministry of Fisheries (MFMR) headquarters in Honiara requested the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) for assistance.

The French Guardian aircraft from the French Navy was requested to carry out surveillance mission over Temotu Province.

However, the surveillance flight which originated from Henderson International airport could not locate the vessels of interest in the area.

A fisheries compliance officer, Ms Lindsay Keliara who accompanied the French crew said the three-hour surveillance flight covered sea areas of interest but there was no sighting.

She said it may have been that the blue boats which the islanders in Temotu have sighted may have gone away from the country’s territorial waters as the reports came in late.

“It’s been eight days already and it is highly likely the vessels may have gone already,” she said.

Despite failing to locate the vessels, Ms Lindsay said the surveillance flight is an eye opener for her as a compliance officer at the Ministry of Fisheries.

“This is an example of how we can all work together to curb Illegal Unreported Unregulated activities within our waters,” she added.

Meanwhile, the Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Fisheries Mr Ferral Lasi said effective coordination between the provinces and the Ministry of Fisheries is a great challenge but ‘we will pursue this as we go forward to ensure sighted vessels are apprehended’.

–MFMR PRESS

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