The release of a rescued Green Sea Turtle back into the ocean by HMAS Childers has capped a successful few months for Royal Australian Navy Patrol Boats in the Top End on their mission to protect Australia’s natural resources.
As part of Maritime Border Command, a multi-agency task force within the Australian Border Force, and in partnership with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, the patrol boats have recently apprehended four Indonesian fishing vessels suspected of illegally fishing in Australian waters, removed almost six tonnes of ghost nets from the ocean, and rescued and released ‘Franklin the Turtle’.
Executive Officer Childers Lieutenant Danielle Couch said involvement in Franklin’s release was a fitting reward for the crew’s hard work.
“It showed we are making a difference to Australian waterways,” Lieutenant Couch said.
The crew of Childers found Franklin floating in the ocean just off Darwin with a puncture wound to her shell late last year.
They transferred her to Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Service, which along with Charles Darwin University, AusTurtle and Animal Ark Veterinary Clinic rehabilitated the reptile.
Green Sea Turtles are an endangered species and Franklin would have died without the intervention of the crew of Childers.
Other marine species have not been so lucky.
Six dolphins, two turtles, nine blacktip reef sharks, one crab and a number of small reef fish were found dead in ghost nets recently retrieved by HMAS Arunta.
Commander Maritime Border Command, Rear Admiral Peter Laver, said protecting Australia’s vast maritime domain from pollution and illegal fishing was one of his command’s primary objectives.
“These nets are incredibly damaging to our unique maritime environment and it’s an important part of our operations to locate and remove them,” Rear Admiral Laver said.
Rear Admiral Laver emphasised that cooperation between Australian Fisheries Management Authority and Maritime Border Command had also resulted in a significant reduction in the number of illegal fishing vessels entering Australian waters in recent years, “but as these latest detections show we must remain vigilant.”
“Anyone attempting to exploit our precious natural resources, even in the vast expanse of Australian waters, should expect to be intercepted by one of our vessels and will face penalties,” Rear Admiral Laver said.