In 2006 and 2007, Tonga hosted regional naval exercises named Operation Kurukuru, a maritime surveillance exercise involving Pacific island patrol boats together with naval forces from Australia, New Zealand, United States and France.
Australia defense assistance channels millions of pa’anga into Tonga, Tonga Now, government website, 2007
“Tonga and Australia during their annual defense meeting in Nuku’alofa this week, pledged to continue working together to enhance working relationship. Australia plays a significant role in upgrading Pacific islands’ defense services. The Director General of Australia Defense Force for the South Pacific and East Timor, Commodore Kevin Taylor said his country has special attention to Tonga and neighbouring countries.
“ ‘We provide support in terms of maritime surveillance cooperation for example, and last year Tonga successfully coordinated and ran an exercise that we called Kurukuru which is a maritime surveillance exercise involving many of the Pacific nations… and we are very keen to see that successful series of exercises called Kurukuru are continuing into 2007.’ said Taylor.
According to Taylor, the Kurukuu exercise program is one of the most difficult exercises but the Tonga Defence has agreed to participate again this year: ‘Australian Defence is indeed happy with the performance from the Tonga Defense Services. The Tonga Defense Service has certainly proved last year that they are up to the challenge of sophisticated exercises such as Kurukuru and so it’s with that peace of mind that I’m more than happy and the Australian government is more than happy to support Kurukuru being run in Tonga again this year’ said Taylor.”
Operation Kurukuru 2007, Tonga Now government website, 3 September 2007
“Operation Kurukuru 2007 kicked off on August 20 and ends September 3rd 2007. It was basically for maritime surveillance of Pacific nations within the Pacific Exclusive Economic Zone. These include Tonga, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Samoa, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, an area of 10.5 million square kilometers. The 2007 Kurukuru Operation was hosted by Tonga and sponsored by the Australian Government with TOP$11 million.
“Joint Naval exercise 2007 Operation Kurukuru is dubbed as the largest maritime exercise hosted by a South Pacific nation. It involved not only those 9 Pacific Countries, but also included the United States, France, New Zealand and Australia. According to the Australian Maritime Surveillance Advisor in Tonga, Bill Triffit, the operation identified some of the vessels that needed further investigation.
“ ‘As a result of the exercise, there were vessels identified by the monitoring systems that there is a need to check them up, but most of them had their proper paper work and documents identified that they were fishing legally. Most of the fishing vessels were legally fishing as they were caught within the exclusive economic zone that their licenses allowed them to fish. However at the same time, some fishing vessels were fishing illegally and investigations continue,’ said Triffit.”
Maritime Surveillance Adviser
Pacific Patrol Boat Program