Information gathered by Maritime Border Command (MBC), a joint agency taskforce within the Australian Border Force (ABF) and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), will strengthen international cooperation in the pursuit of fishing vessels suspected of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Southern Ocean.
This was demonstrated on 18 June 2020 when the fishing vessel FV Cobija was boarded 514 nautical miles south west of Cocos Keeling Islands on the high seas in the Indian Ocean, after being sighted by a Royal Australian Air Force maritime patrol aircraft.
The FV Cobija, previously named Cape Flower and Cape Wrath II, is an IUU listed vessel and when boarded by MBC and AFMA officers the captain claimed the vessel was registered under the Bolivian Flag.
Following the boarding a request from Australia was made to establish the vessel’s identity, and Bolivia confirmed the FV Cobija had not been flagged to Bolivia since 2019, therefore the vessel is considered stateless.
Commander Maritime Border Command Rear Admiral Lee Goddard, said the information gathered by MBC and AFMA will be instrumental in shutting down another illegal fishing operation.
“As a result of this activity we have been able to share important information with our international partners,” Rear Admiral Goddard said
“Stateless vessels operate without governance and oversight to exploit the world’s marine resources.”
“These collective efforts will hopefully lead to another alleged transnational organised crime network being shut down for good.”
AFMA’s General Manager of Fisheries Operations, Peter Venslovas, said IUU fishing on the high seas is highly organised, mobile and elusive.
“IUU fishing undermines the sustainability of marine resources and threatens world food security,” Mr Venslovas said
“We are urging our regional partners to deny the FV Cobija port access or, where possible, take action under national laws. These efforts work to shut down the vessel’s ability to enter port where it could unload illicit catch and access port facilities to resupply and refuel.”