New Zealand’s Defence Minister says a naval ship from this country will be deployed to Fiji to help tackle illegal fishing in the region.

Gerry Brownlee met his Fijian counterpart, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, at a South Pacific defence ministers’ meeting in Auckland yesterday to discuss issues including maritime surveillance.

He said an inshore patrol vessel will be deployed to Fiji for six months in May to combat the widespread problem.

According to Mr Brownlee, the increase in illegal fishing vessels from Vietnam, also known as “blue boats”, required counter-action.

“The full scope of it is a bit hard to estimate because you don’t always see who is out there taking the fish illegally,” Mr Brownlee explained, “and so we do need to make sure we help our near neighbours.”

He said Fijian authorities would be on board the vessel to work closely with the navy.

The Auckland talks, which also included Australia, Chile, France, Papua New Guinea and Tonga, follow a pattern of restoration of Fiji’s regional defence links which it earlier lost when its military overthrew the government in 2006.

Fiji’s defence ties with regional powers were quickly restored after the elections in 2014 by which time Suva had consolidated its Look North policy and strengthened ties with the armed forces of several Asian countries.

The Defence officials also discussed disaster response, peacekeeping developments as well as women in armed forces.