Australia has scrapped funding for a civilian surveillance operation that patrols a 10,000 square kilometer region of the Pacific in order to prioritize the search for the remains of the still missing and ill-fated flight MH370, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
The area that had previously been under patrol stretched from the east coast of Australia out to the seas east of Kiribati. The target area also involves the Phoenix Island Protected Area (PIPA), which belongs to host nation Kiribati. PIPA is regarded as an important, highly sensitive, and one of the largest marine reserves in the world.
Unfortunately, Kiribati is unable to police closely this valuable reserve due to the lack of resources. Instead, it had relied on the long range patrols and overflights led by the civilian surveillance group. These efforts are related to Australia's obligations under the Niue Treaty on Cooperation in Fisheries Surveillance and Law Enforcement in the South Pacific.
Under the treaty, Australia should be involved in monitoring and preventing illegal activity in the rich fishing grounds belonging to the small Pacific nations.
According to civilian contractor Chris Langton, however, this obligation has been neglected to give way to search operations for flight MH370 and the previously downed aircraft, the MH17. Langton claims the latter have soaked up the funding previously earmarked for monitoring the Pacific.
Australia's involvement in patrolling the Pacific's rich reservations is nothing new. The country had been providing policing the marine area via the Pacific Patrol Boat program for decades.
Now that Australia has turned its eye towards the conclusion and fulfillment of searching out the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft, Langton says that this means Australia is no longer able to track adequately some of the destructive and predatory fishing fleets that have been preying on the sensitive marine reservations. He also says that Australia has lost the chance to document general maritime information during this period.
The surveillance patrol requires funds for maintenance, fuel, and civil services issues, Langton said. Otherwise, it would not be able to catch up with the speedy and illegal fishing fleets.
Meanwhile, Flightglobal reports that a New Zealand-based firm, Spider tracks, has created and unveiled a new Iridium-based flight tracking system that was created with the MH370 in mind.
The system is called the Spider 7, which works to monitor the position and heading of planes in real-time. It also reports abnormal changes in altitude and speed and enables two-way messages between pilots and ground operations.