PNG Fisheries Minister Raises Grave Concerns About Illegal Fishing Incursions

'Invasion' of 'blue boats' a matter of 'national security,' Zeming says

By Rosalyn Albaniel 

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 29, 2016) – Fisheries Minister Mao Zeming has raised grave concerns over the frequent invasion of PNG’s waters by the “blue boats” hailing it not just as a threat to PNG fisheries but also its national security.

He has strongly urged the National Government for its intervention at the regional and diplomatic levels and will be writing to the Prime Minister to officially register his concerns.

Mr Zeming was responding to questions that had been put to him regarding the recent sighting of several of these “blue boats” that have illegally crossed into PNG waters to fish, particularly in Milne Bay Province.

The “blue boat invasion” is a term used to describe the blue wooden boats of Vietnamese origin that continue to frequent PNG waters, to fish sea cucumbers and other marine species of commercial value.

“It is not just an illegal fishing matter to be addressed by the National Fisheries Authority. It is a national security issue which must be raised at the highest diplomatic levels,” Mr Zeming said.

The minister said through collaborative efforts of the National Fisheries Authority, PNG Defence Force, PNG Customs and with co-operation from the coastal communities, some of these vessels were detained recently. Three in Milne Bay, one in New Ireland and another in East Sepik Province.

“The ‘blue boat invasion’ is an international and regional issue and concern.

“Such boats have gone all over the Pacific region and have been arrested in a number of countries including PNG, Australia, the Solomon Islands, the Cook Islands, Federated State of Micronesia, Palau, Fiji, and Vanuatu.

“Their presence has got nothing to do with the moratorium on sea cucumber harvest imposed by NFA, and those making the connection are simply out to serve their own interests.

“We must urge the Government of Vietnam to do all it can to stop this ‘blue boat invasion’ occurring in PNG and in the Pacific,” he said.

The minister said NFA will continue to work with the PNGDF, the Royal PNG Constabulary, and Customs to improve border surveillance and combat illegal fishing.

PNG Post-Courier
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