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Royal New Zealand Navy team supports Fiji to counter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

A 10-personnel Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) contingent has completed a six-week deployment supporting the Fiji Ministry of Fisheries to counter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in Fiji’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which covers 1.29m square km.

07 May, 2024

An eight-person Deployable Boarding Team (DBT) from HMNZS Matataua - the RNZN’s littoral warfare support unit – along with two Junior Warfare Officers embarked the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy (RN) vessel HMS Tamar in Auckland in March before beginning a sweep of Fiji’s waters for vessels fishing illegally, as well as other illicit activity including poor crew welfare, pollution or involvement in the shark fin trade.

Partnering with Fijian fishery officers, the boarding teams from HMS Tamar intercepted and boarded 23 vessels.

All vessels were complying with the terms of their licences, though several were found to have minor infractions with their long-line fishing practices. Local authorities indicated this could be due to a recent policy transition which is still being communicated to vessels.  

Lieutenant Jack Walters, officer in charge of the DBT, said it was a great opportunity to represent the RNZN and Aotearoa while supporting our international partners.

“There is an estimated loss of FJ$600m (approx. NZ$440m) to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the Pacific region each year,” Lieutenant Walters said.  

“This combined effort has strengthened deterrence and enforcement in the region, which has a direct correlation to the prosperity of our Pacific Island neighbours.  It’s heartening to see that there were no concerning reports from any of the vessels we observed or boarded.

“HMS Tamar is a capable platform enabled by a professional and passionate crew, and we’ve appreciated the opportunity to work with our UK counterparts for enhanced relations and counter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.”  

Two sailors looking away from the camera on the bridge of HMS Tamar

Sub Lieutenants Darren Pace and Elliot Bell on the bridge of HMS Tamar

A sailor climbs up a ladder aboard HMS Tamar

Petty Officer Physical Training Instructor Marc Thomas climbs aboard HMS Tamar

Two sailors not looking at the camera on board a vessel

Petty Officer Seaman Combat Specialist Jordan McHugh and Able Hydrographic Systems Operator Mya-Marie Wells on board a vessel of interest

A boarding team prepares to approach a vessel of interest

A boarding team prepares to approach a vessel of interest

Sub Lieutenant Darren Pace was one of the two Junior Warfare Officers on board, and said the opportunity enabled them to experience life on a foreign warship and gain valuable exposure to boarding operations, including holding watches on the bridge alongside their RN counterparts.

“Being able to work with other nations on operations are the exact experiences I joined the New Zealand Defence Force for,” he said.

“Conducting bridge watches on HMS Tamar was an awesome opportunity to gain and maintain navigation skills that will support our career development.”

The DBT team - which was stood up last year - is a specialist capability providing a ready-to-go resource that can support an RNZN ship or vessels of partner nations on operations. 

HMS Tamar is a Batch 2 River-Class Offshore Patrol Vessel of the RN. Alongside its sister-ship HMS Spey, it is forward-deployed to the Indo-Pacific as part of the UK’s enduring commitment to the region.