Palau’s PSS Remeliik and FSM’s FSS Micronesia docked at Yap State, FSM. (Supplied photo by Australian Navy)

Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) joint maritime surveillance operation conducted for a week concluded with a decline in sightings of suspicious fishing vessels in the two countries exclusive economic zones.

Lt. Commander Clint Moore, the Australian Maritime Surveillance Adviser to Palau said the joint operation between PSS Remeliik and FSS Micronesia covered a combined area of 170,000 square kilometers.

Moore said that while the operation did not yield apprehensions, the most significant outcome was that the two countries worked well together to patrol their seas side by side.

Operation Piailug was the first joint operation between Palau and FSM with at least 16 marine law enforcers from FSM aboard the vessel’s FSS Micronesia traveling here for a two -day training.

Moore said the operation was an opportunity for the countries to get used to operating with the neighboring countries. Now that FSM has the training and experience to patrol Palau’s waters, it could help the island nation with surveillance when its patrol boats are out of commission.

Under the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement (NTSA), Palau and FSM cooperate about monitoring, control, and surveillance of fishing – it includes provisions on exchange of information, plus procedures for cooperation in monitoring, prosecuting, and penalizing illegal fishing vessels.

He added that another joint operation is scheduled next year to further enhance the capabilities of the two nations’ marine law enforcement.

He noted that FSM would be a big help once the Palau National Marine Sanctuary law (PNMS) takes effect on January 1, 2020.

More than 50 marine law enforcement officers from Palau and FSM participated in the operation. Although FSM and Palau continue to be part of a regional surveillance undertaking with other Pacific nations, Moore said that this is the first time both countries patrolled together and trained in firefighting, rescue, and ship maneuvering training.

The joint operation was also aided by aerial surveillance by Australia’s Pacific Maritime Security Program.  (Bernadette H. Carreon)