The aircraft, which was here in support of the Cook Islands Police Maritime Unit and Ministry of Marine Resources, left Rarotonga on Tuesday.
The King Air 200 aircraft is operated by Technology Service Corporation and is under the operational control of the FFA. Two King Air 200s provide aerial surveillance for FFA members as part of the wider Pacific Maritime Surveillance Programme, funded by the Australian government to strengthen regional maritime security.
The aircraft is fitted with modern technology that can record video from long distances and is capable of monitoring illegal fishing activity that can be used in prosecutions.
In a special event hosted at the Nauru International Airport following the Pacific Forum meeting in September, leaders from around the region, including Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna, were able to inspect one of the aircraft, which come with high tech sensors, avionics and communications technologies capable of detecting fishing vessels over a wide area of ocean.
FFA director general James Movick said at the time that the aerial surveillance programme would ensure there were more Pacific “eyes in the sky”, checking fisheries activity across the exclusive economic zones of Pacific member nations.
He described the introduction of the aircraft as an exciting milestone for fisheries surveillance, as well as broader law enforcement supporting the protection of our oceanic resources for the benefit of Pacific people.
Puna, who launched the programme in his capacity as chairman of the Forum Fisheries Committee, commended the efforts of those involved in bringing the initiative to fruition, heralding “a new era in Pacific maritime security capability.”
The aircraft will provide air surveillance service to FFA member countries, based on regional risk assessments and responding to nationally-determined air surveillance needs.
At the launch of the new programme, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Marise Payne noted the Pacific Maritime Security Programme was a major part of Australia’s defence cooperation work in the Pacific and a commitment of its support to the Pacific region over the next 30 years.