The New Zealand Defence Force is working with the National Maritime Coordination Centre and Pacific partners to resume
aerial patrols in the Pacific following concerns about illegal fishing in the region.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P-3K2 Orion will this week carry out aerial surveillance over the Exclusive
Economic Zones of Niue and the Cook Islands.
RNZAF crew routinely carry out aerial patrols in coordination with maritime patrols by host nations.
However, due to travel and border restrictions put in place as part of the response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the
frequency of patrols reduced and there are concerns illegal activity may be going undetected.
The crew have been given permission to carry out overnight logistics stops in the Cook Islands, so three days of patrols
can be carried out in the eastern Pacific.
Air Component Commander Air Commodore Tim Walshe said the air crew would continue to follow health guidelines such as
screening prior to departure as well as personal hygiene measures and careful restrictions on movements while in the
Cook Islands. Any other local requirements of the Cook Islands would also be strictly observed.
“The Orion crew will detect and report illegal, unregulated or unreported fishing activity within the Exclusive Economic
Zones of Niue and the Cook Islands. We routinely support Niue and the Cook Islands with patrols and are resuming these
given current uncertainty about illegal fishing activity. If it is the case that illegal activity has increased, that
has implications for the sustainability of fish stocks.’’
The crew will also take the opportunity to look for unreported or undetected pleasure craft that are potentially being
used for transnational organised crime such as drug smuggling. Any information gathered is provided to the relevant
``We are also ready to resume support to other Pacific nations if asked to do so.’’
The crew will also fly over the Kermadec Islands and provide an update to the Department of Conservation, after DOC
staff on Raoul Island were evacuated ahead of Covid-19 border and travel restrictions.