By RONALD TOITO’ONA, In Manila

AFTER a lull in sightings of illegal Vietnamese Blue Boats in the Pacific seas, New Caledonia has warned Pacific States that the illegal fishing boats are back.

The Tuna Commission was told this week in Manila, Philippines about the Blue Boat threat, despite all the efforts to crack down on them.

New Caledonia is the latest country to sight the boats, Thursday last week.

“The purpose of my intervention to warn the members of the Western Pacific by sharing with you what is happening now in New Caledonia,” said the French territory’s representative Manuel Ducrocq.

“Blue Boats are back in the region.

“Despite the statement of several Commission members during last plenary session, despite the joint effort between FFA members, the QUAD (the defence forces of Australia, New Zealand the United States and France) and New Caledonia to join their knowledge and diplomacy, despite the yellow card delivered by the EU to Vietnam, Blue Boats are back in our waters,” Mr Ducrocq told the opening session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

The francophone territory also remembered well a Vietnamese statement in the last Tuna Commission meeting in Fiji, which explained that the Vietnam government was highly concerned over the Blue Boats activities in the Pacific seas.

Looking back at the Vietnamese statement, the New Caledonia delegation to this year’s WCPFC14 said they (Vietnam) is still not doing much to address the issue.

“I remember the statement by our friend, the delegate of Vietnam, during last TCC who explained us that Vietnam is highly concerned about IUU fishing but it is apparently not enough.

“Indeed two Blue Boats were intercepted last Thursday in the waters of New Caledonia. Boats and crew have been delivered by the French navy to justice,” Mr Ducrocq stated.

Five tones of gutted and salted sea cucumber and shark fins were found on board the apprehended vessels.

“I know that sea cucumber is not a highly-migratory species but this time shark fins and was equally found on board.

“Sharks were illegally fished in the participating territory of the Commission …, against the New Caledonia fishing policy in a shark sanctuary. One more time, it is not acceptable,” the representative said.

It was understood that the Commission will be informed officially of these facts, when the 14th Tuna Commission meeting continues this week.

With the successful interception of the two blue boats, New Caledonia wishes to thank Australia for the efficient co-operation work with the French navy.

Towards the middle of this year, three Blue boats were caught in the Indispensable reef of Solomon Islands, and the captains and crews were ordered to pay huge fines, for breaching the country’s laws.

These Blue Boats and their illegal activities are now a serious threat to nations of the Pacific region.

The recent incident in New Caledonia will prompt other Pacific Island countries, and other fisheries bodies like the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), to continue to call on Vietnam to be cooperative, in the current 14th regular Tuna Commission meeting.

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