Skip to main content

RNZAF assists UK with maritime surveillance of Pitcairn Islands

The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) has answered a call from the United Kingdom to support its Blue Belt marine conservation programme, deploying a new P-8A Poseidon aircraft to assist with monitoring of the Pitcairn Islands Exclusive Economic Zone.

28 February, 2024

The P-8A crew carried out 10 hours of airborne surveillance in January, with a total of 24 vessels reported on.

About 5500 kilometres east of New Zealand, the Pitcairn Island Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is an 834,000-square-kilometre marine reserve, with all forms of commercial fishing and mining prohibited.  A network of remote surveillance sensors provide constant reports of movement in the area. 

It is part of the UK’s Blue Belt programme, a marine conservation effort that assists UK overseas territories to create and maintain healthy and productive marine ecosystems with the aim of tackling the serious global problems of overfishing, species extinction and climate change.

Air Component Commander Air Commodore Andy Scott said the RNZAF was pleased to assist UK partners in the important task of preserving this area. 

“The reporting by the P-8A crew on the Pitcairn task meant that the UK Marine Management Office (MMO) was able to confirm accuracy of the remote surveillance methods so they know what they’re seeing is correct.

“The presence of the aircraft also provides a deterrence factor to those who may be seeking to carry out illegal activities in the marine reserve.

“The range of the P-8A means we’re now able to project even further into areas that require monitoring for various reasons.  Earlier this year the aircraft carried out the furthest south continuous patrol the RNZAF has done, in support of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.”

The Pitcairn operation was a joint tasking between the UK MMO, the Government of the Pitcairn Islands, the Joint Maritime Security Centre UK, the National Maritime Coordination Centre (New Zealand), New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the New Zealand Defence Force. 

The RNZAF acquired four P-8A Poseidon aircraft last year and they are regularly deployed to provide maritime surveillance throughout the Southern Ocean and south west Pacific.