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APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, July 19) – Samoa and the Cook Islands launched their first joint naval exercise yesterday, with other South Pacific islands watching to see how it goes.

"We aim to work cooperatively in an effort to stop illegal fishing and also build a better awareness of maritime activity," said Minister of Police Ulu Vaomalo Kini during a ceremony at Matautu Wharf.

He said Samoan and Cook Islands patrol boats will conduct surveillance in the Exclusive Economic Zones of both countries.

Speaking to an audience that included Cooks Islands Minister of Police Peri Vaevaepare and the head of that country's Police Maritime Division, Tai Isamaela, he said: "We are the first countries in our region to have such a recognised Fisheries and Surveillance Agreement and subsequently conduct a joint operation under the guidelines of that agreement."

He said the two countries were fortunate to have the Australia-supplied Pacific Class patrol boats, Nafanua of Samoa, and Te Kukupa of the Cook Islands.

Assisting in the joint operation will be a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft, and Australian and New Zealand advisers.

The name of the operation comes from the Samoan word "Tui" which means hero and the Cooks Islands word for ocean, "Moana."

Both countries have recently signed an agreement on cooperation in fisheries surveillance and law enforcement. It is a sub agreement under the Niue Treaty which was adopted in 1992.

Crew from both Nafanua and Te Kukupa will undergo specialist training this week in the harbour in Apia and at sea.

Ulu said: "These activities are the final preparations that must be made to ensure our men and equipment are fully prepared before sailing on what may be a dangerous operation."

Australian High Commissioner Phillip Allars said Tui Moana is very timely.

This is given concerns about the impact on regional fish stocks of over and unreported fishing and the threat posed in the region by transnational crime and other influences.

July 26, 2005

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