The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has successfully completed Operation Solania − its latest maritime surveillance mission aimed at detecting and deterring illegal fishing activities in the waters of Samoa and Tonga.

The operation is part of the ADF’s support to regional maritime security, including to Pacific Islands Forum Fishing Agency (FFA) operations.

During this iteration of Operation Solania, a dedicated Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-27J Spartan aircraft conduct extensive patrols to provide crucial surveillance support to combat illegal fishing practices in the region under the FFA’s Operation Tui Moana.

Commander ADF in the South-West Pacific, Major General Scott Winter, AM, said the ADF’s support was a major part of Australia’s longstanding commitment to maritime security.

“Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing not only threatens the delicate balance of marine ecosystems but also undermines the livelihoods of legitimate fishermen and the economic stability of coastal communities,” Major General Winter said.

“The ADF is proud to partner with the FFA, Pacific partners, and members of the Pacific Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group (Australia, the United States,

New Zealand and France) in our collective efforts to combat illegal fishing activities.

“Operation Solania has been instrumental in deterring IUU fishing, protecting the marine environment, and ensuring the sustainability of fish populations in the region.”

Throughout the operation, aircrew conducted comprehensive maritime surveillance to detect, track and monitor vessels engaged in illegal fishing practices.

The aerial patrols covered 469,896 square kilometres of the Samoan and Tongan exclusive economic zones, identifying seven vessels of interest, and documenting suspicious activities and providing crucial information to the FFA and enforcement authorities on the ground.