News 7 Nov 2018
A woman from Tuvalu, who led a regional operation to combat illegal fishing in the Pacific, is hoping she can inspire other women to take on leadership roles.
Last month, Senior Constable Sepola Niulakita became the first female to lead the joint maritime and fisheries exercise, Operation Kurukuru.
Several nations belonging to the Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency took part in the operation which covered 21 million square kilometres.
Ms Niulakita said she hopes other women will be inspired to become regional leaders.
"We can all be leaders. It's really encouraging to be the first female Chief-of-Staff. To me, I would like to encourage my other colleagues, females, we can do anything. We can step out from our comfort zones, especially working together with the different nations."
Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (PFFA): First female Chief of Staff leads successful joint operation to combat illegal fishing in the region
It is not often a female Chief of Staff is chosen to lead a joint fisheries and maritime operation between FFA Member countries and QUAD partners (Australia, France, New Zealand and USA). But Senior Constable Sepola Tataa Niulakita from Tuvalu, the first female Chief of Staff, was chosen to lead Operation Kurukuru 2018 (OPKK18), an annual FFA-led operation to combat illegal fishing in the Pacific region.
"It is a great honour to take up this role as a Chief of Staff for Kurukuru 2018. It was a good opportunity to experience the role of Chief of Staff (COS) at the FFA Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) in Honiara," said Senior Constable Niulakita.
"As the first female COS it has really encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and do what I can do to work together with other members from the region in order to complete this operation successfully," she said.
FFA Director General, James Movick said "FFA is very supportive of women in fisheries management and operations as well as in key roles in the fishing industry. Therefore, on behalf of FFA and the OPKK18 team, I wish to congratulate Senior Constable Niulakita on an outstanding job and her contribution to the success of the operation is hugely appreciated."
Covering 21.2 million square kilometres, OPKK18 ran from 1 - 12 October and involved several FFA members - Cook Islands, Fiji, FSM, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, RMI, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu, as well as QUAD partners, bringing the total personnel participation to just over 250. OPKK18 sighted 181 vessels, with 116 boardings at sea and in port. The operation also covered over 52 hours of aerial surveillance, including by one of the new regional aerial surveillance aircraft managed by FFA.
OPKK18 reported a number of infringements such as unmarked gear and faded vessel identification numbers in Cook Islands and a vessel misreporting the disposal of bycatch in Palau. Palau also destroyed two fishing aggregating devices because it is in breach of the Palau National Sanctuary Act.
As with other operations in recent years no illegal fishing boats were detected, affirming the continuing effectiveness against illegal fishing activity.
While thanking the FFA RFSC staff for their support, Senior Constable Niulakita made special mention of "two hardworking Operations Coordinators, Phil Rowe and JJ Williams for their wonderful support during the operation. I also want to thank my brothers from the different countries that participated in this operation, you have done a good job. Without all your support, we would never complete this operation successfully."