Skip to main content



10 Apr 2024

Royal Navy joins Fiji to keep Pacific fish thieves at bay

Royal Navy joins Fiji to keep Pacific fish thieves at bay
Royal Navy Image
Royal Navy Press Release

Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Tamar joined forces with authorities in Fiji and the Royal New Zealand Navy to help tackle illegal fishing in the South Pacific.

The warship – on a long-term deployment to the region with her sister HMS Spey – scoured Fijian waters on the lookout for illicit activity.

Experts reckon illegal fishing deprives Pacific nations of more than £200m every year – as well as eroding stocks, impacting livelihoods and communities reliant on the ocean for both their food and incomes.

But Tamar’s joint work with the Fijian Ministry of Fisheries and the New Zealand Navy’s Deployable Boarding Team in Fiji’s vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – covering an area of the Pacific spanning 1.29 million square kilometres, or five times larger than the United Kingdom – has also focused on preserving the delicate eco-balance and preserving the region’s marine environment.

Beyond illegal fishing, the team on Tamar kept a sharp lookout for vessels operating with poor crew welfare, those polluting the environment, poaching or involved in the lucrative shark fin trade.

Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF) is one of the greatest threats not only to the Pacific Ocean and its island, coastal and fishing communities, but seas and oceans around the globe.

A direct contravention of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Fiji is facing an increased threat from IUUF to its fertile fish stocks, and of the resulting damage to the local populations and their prosperity.

Unlicensed fishing in another country’s territorial waters or EEZ is not only illegal, it disrupts managed fish stocks, threatens marine biodiversity and food security for coastal states, and can lead to cases of poverty as well as being linked to organised crime and regional insecurity.

Hence the Fijian authorities were delighted at the opportunity to step up their policing activity.

Fisheries Officer Arieta Tunidau, from Fiji’s Ministry of Fisheries, said: “Our partnership with the Royal Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy allows us to be at the forefront of fishing operations in our Exclusive Economic Zone.

“Together, we’re ensuring surveillance and patrols are undertaken to address and deter illegal fishing.”

Tamar conducted training with its Kiwi allies off Auckland earlier this year and the New Zealanders from HMNZS Matataua relished the chance to return to the ship on a concerted operation.

“This has been an awesome opportunity to represent the Royal New Zealand Navy and Aotearoa [the Maori name for New Zealand], working alongside the Royal Navy and Fijian Ministry of Fisheries to counter illegal fishing in the region,” said Lieutenant Jack Walters RNZN, the officer in charge of the boarding team embarked on Tamar.

“Our combined efforts have strengthened deterrence and enforcement, directly benefitting the prosperity of our Pacific Island partners.”
Tamar’s Commanding Officer, Commander Tom Gell, said: “This is a real demonstration of multi-agency and multi-national cooperation and partnerships in action.

“Fiji, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have come together for this vitally important mission to minimise the far-reaching and devastating impact of illegal fishing; I could not be prouder of HMS Tamar’s role in this cohesive team.”

The combined effort, said Lieutenant Colonel Sophie Waters, the UK’s Defence Adviser to Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu, underscored the “long-standing and enduring relationship” between Britain and Fiji, “built on common values, trust and respect”.

She continued: “2,200 Fijians currently serve in the UK’s Armed Forces and working here in Fiji alongside its navy and fisheries protection team, with colleagues from New Zealand, on Counter-IUUF patrols is not only hugely rewarding, but vital.”

Tamar is currently in Tonga but will return to Fijian waters once her visit is complete to resume her fishery patrol.

View all News