U.S. Coast Guard tackles IUU fishing, deepens partnerships in Oceania
A collaborative mission of enforcement and engagement brought success on both fronts during the United States Coast Guard cutter Oliver Henry’s monthlong, 9,700-kilometer patrol of the Pacific Ocean.
The fast-response cutter traversed the exclusive economic zones of partner nations Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia, as well as international waters between the Pacific Island Countries to counter illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Coast Guardsmen boarded more than a dozen foreign-flagged fishing boats, including five boardings with an embarked Palauan maritime law enforcement officer, and identified potential regulatory violations on catch logs, transshipping permits, and vessel markings and monitoring systems, according to a mid-April 2023 news release. (Pictured: U.S. Coast Guard cutter Oliver Henry crew approach a fishing boat in the Pacific Ocean in late March 2023.)
In the Central and Western Pacific, the tuna catch alone in 2021 was valued at more than $4.8 billion, according to the Western and Central Pacific Fishing Commission. In 2019, the IUU tuna haul in those fisheries was estimated at $333 million. IUU fishing is a major threat to the region, which relies heavily on its fisheries for sustenance and livelihoods.
“It’s a good feeling for the boarding team to know we’re making an impact by documenting these potential violations and educating fishing crews on the requirements,” Lt. Freddy Hofschneider, the cutter’s commanding officer, said in a news release. “On every vessel, the crews met us with respect, positive interest and a desire to correct deficiencies.”
The mission supported the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency’s Operation 365 and U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam’s Operation Rematau, both of which promote sovereignty, security and economic prosperity in Oceania. The Oliver Henry and the Micronesian vessel FSS Tosiwo Nakayama conducted a joint patrol as part of Operation 365.
Under their Compacts of Free Association, Micronesia and Palau, as well as the Marshall Islands, receive economic assistance and security guarantees from the U.S.
“The return on investment for our partners … through the use of the fast-response cutters and the U.S. Coast Guard in this region is undeniable, and we hear that demand signal loud and clear,” Capt. Nick Simmons, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam, said in a news release.
On the Micronesian island of Satawal, the Oliver Henry crew attended a master navigator ceremony and met with local leaders to discuss challenges facing the 500 residents. In Palau, more than 80 high school and college students toured the cutter, and Coast Guardsmen conducted search and rescue training and damage control planning with local marine law enforcement personnel.
“U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia and our cutter crews are dedicated to serving our partners by providing valuable requested training and resources to meet their needs,” Simmons said.
The Oliver Henry’s mission overlapped with the three-week deployment of its sister ship, Myrtle Hazard, to the Northern Mariana Islands, also part of Operation Rematau.
The Myrtle Hazard supported missions including maritime law enforcement, marine resource protection, search and rescue, and coastal, port and waterway security, according to a late March 2023 news release. The cutter also transferred personnel and equipment for maritime safety and security operations near Saipan, the largest of the U.S. territory’s islands.
“It’s great to be up in the [Northern Mariana Islands] and to provide these services to enhance boating safety and aid our local partners,” Lt. Jalle Merritt, the cutter’s commanding officer, said in a news release. “We thank the people of Saipan for their hospitality during our stay.”
IMAGE CREDIT: CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER SARA MUIR/U.S. COAST GUARD