Southern Ocean surveillance flights begin
The first surveillance flight over the Southern Ocean and the Ross Sea took place today, searching for any illegal fishing in the region.

Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff the Air Force Orion left Dunedin early this morning on an 11-hour mission.

"This is the sixth consecutive year that New Zealand has undertaken surveillance in the Ross Sea because of concern about the potential for illegal fishing," he said.

"Demand for toothfish in markets such as the United States, Japan and Europe is high and illegal fishing has seriously depleted stocks and caused enormous damage to seabird populations elsewhere in the Southern Ocean."

Mr Goff said that in some cases illegal fishing for toothfish was connected with organised crime.

"This not only poses a serious threat to the fragile Antarctic environment but to the rule of law and even the Antarctic Treaty system itself," he said.

"It is vital that all CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) do their utmost to exercise fully their flag state responsibilities in respect of their vessels."