Coast Guard interdicts illegal foreign fishers in Pacific, turns cases over to NOAA OLE
by Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir, U.S. Coast Guard District 14 Hawaii Pacific, DVIDSHUB, February 24, 2020
HONOLULU — The Coast Guard interdicted several foreign fishing vessels fishing inside the US exclusive economic zone on two separate occasions incidents in the first two months of 2020.
"While we've seen incursions into the EEZs of partners and illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing on the high seas, these are the first interdictions we've had in the US EEZ since 2012," said Lt. Jason Holstead, of Coast Guard 14th District Response Enforcement. "The combination of partnerships, electronic methods, and putting assets on the scene to catch violators in the act is essential to deterring IUU fishing in Oceania."
In both cases, the Coast Guard was conducting maritime domain awareness flights in the zones off Guam and Hawaii with Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft crews based at Air Station Barbers Point.
Case packages were forwarded to the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement for further actions. The investigations are pending.
The living marine resources mission is one of two Coast Guard missions devoted to protecting fisheries inside and outside US waters. While LMR focuses on domestic fisheries, other law enforcement focuses on illegal incursions by foreign fishing vessels into the US EEZ. An EEZ is defined as the region extending 200 miles beyond a nation's shores. The Coast Guard leverages partnerships and 13 bilateral agreements between the US and other nations in the Pacific to enforce fisheries regulations and combat IUU fishing.
Fishing within the United States generates more than $200 billion and employs 1.7 million people annually. IUU fishing represents an estimated monetary loss of $10 billion to $23 billion for legitimate fishers. Narrow that to focus on Tuna. Globally, commercially landed tuna and tuna products have a value of $10 billion to $12 billion per year to the fishermen who target these species and more than $42 billion per year at the final point of sale. These conservative totals do not account for noncommercial tuna activity including sport fishing and tourism.
According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Pacific Ocean, also known as the "tuna belt", represents 65 to 70 percent of globally harvested tuna. According to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), the international body that manages tuna fishing in the same waters, state fishers caught nearly 2.85 million metric tons of the primary commercial tuna species in 2014. This catch's worth was valued at more than $5 billion to fishers in the region and more than $22.68 billion at the final point of sale. Tuna caught in the WCPFC Convention Area accounts for more than half of the landings, dock value, and end value of all commercial tuna fisheries.
While the Coast Guard is not the only agency responsible for protecting fisheries, it plays a significant role. The Coast Guard has enforcement authority over 202 separate commercial fisheries.
"While regulation compliance among US fishers is near 97 percent, some of the lowest policed areas, such as the waters in the Western and Central Pacific, are responsible for the highest percentage of significant violations. This is where the efforts of the Coast Guard 14th District and partners are so important," said Holstead. "In 2019, we conducted numerous routine and analysis-based patrols throughout the region in support of IUU fishing detection and deterrence."
The Indo-Pacific is the epicenter of global maritime trade and geostrategic influence, where combatting the threat of IUU fishing is the most important to uphold America's interests. Map courtesy of Eric Gaba - Wikimedia Commons.
Kudos to the Coast Guard for Combatting IUU Fishing in the Western Pacific Region
News Release from WESPAC
HONOLULU (27 Feb. 2020) Taotasi Archie Soliai and Kitty M. Simonds, chair and executive director of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, laud the US Coast Guard's recent success in combating illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing in the Western Pacific Region.
On Monday, the Maritime Executive reported that for the first time since 2012, the Coast Guard's Honolulu-based 14th District intercepted foreign vessels illegally operating within the US exclusive economic zone (EEZ) waters off Guam and Hawai'i.
"While regulation compliance among US fishers is near 97 percent, some of the lowest policed areas, such as the waters in the Western and Central Pacific, are responsible for the highest percentage of significant violations," said Lt. Jason Holstead. He reported that the Coast Guard has addressed foreign incursions in the EEZs of partner countries and IUU fishing on the high seas but not in the US EEZ in the past eight years.
The interdiction of the foreign vessels in the US EEZ came on the heels of last week's 2020 State of the United States Coast Guard address delivered by Admiral Karl Schultz. "China, with the world's largest distant water fishing fleet, is one of the worst predatory fishing offenders, engaging in what we call illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing--or IUU," Schultz said. "This is far more than just about conservation and sustainability, this is a national security challenge warranting a clear response."
Schultz noted that many Pacific Island Countries, "and even American island territories, lack the capability and capacity to fully police their sovereign waters ..."
"To enhance maritime domain awareness across the Pacific Ocean, we are fostering a partnership with Global Fishing Watch," Schultz said. Additionally, the Coast Guard is "on track to take delivery of the first two 154-foot Fast Response Cutters to be home-ported in Guam" by the end of the year, Schultz added. They will replace 40-year-old vessels and strengthen the Coast Guard's capabilities in the region.
"We have advised the government over the years that China is an aggressive player in Oceania in search of natural gas, minerals, fish and other raw materials," said Simonds. "This aggressiveness is in part demonstrated by its heavy subsidizing of its fishing fleets." According to Marine Policy (vol. 68), in 2013 the Chinese central government spent $6.5 billion on fisheries subsidies. In recent years, China's South Pacific albacore catch has increased to 40 to 50 percent of the total catch for all countries, while the catch by American Samoa has decreased to 2 percent of the total catch, which has jeopardized the local albacore longline fleet. In response, the Council recommended allowing the local fleet access to waters from 12 to 50 nautical miles of shore in the US EEZ around American Samoa. "It is good to see that our government has begun to recognize the threat to our nation's fisheries in the Western Pacific," Simonds said.
Sean Martin, president of the Hawaii Longline Association, noted that China's presence is in the Eastern Pacific as well. It recently received a quota for 6,000 metric tons (mt) of longline-caught bigeye tuna transferred from Japan. Korea also received a 2,000-mt quota transfer from Japan. "One third of Hawai'i effort is in Eastern Pacific," Martin said, noting that 8,000 mt is equivalent to the total annual bigeye tuna catch of the Hawai'i longline fleet in both the Western and Central Pacific and Eastern Pacific combined.
The issue of international tuna management and enforcement is on the agenda for the Council's 181st meeting, which convene March 10-12 in Honolulu. Prior to this meeting, the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee will meet next week to review the scientific aspects of the topics on the Council's agenda. For more information on these meetings, go to http://www.wpcouncil.org/meetings-calendars/ or contact the Council at (808) 522-8220 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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NF: They’re back: Coast Guard air patrols spot fishing incursions near Hawaii, Guam