Canada, U.S. join forces to protect South Pacific fisheries

Canada, U.S. join forces to protect South Pacific fisheries


Canada and the United States have teamed up for the past month to conduct sustained patrols to protect the threatened fisheries of small island nations in the South Pacific.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mellon took on ship riders from Fiji and Tuvalu to enforce fisheries laws in the exclusive economic zones of those countries, the Coast Guard said in a news release.

Two officers from Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans were stationed on the Mellon, and the Canadian Air Force dispatched a CP-140 Aurora aircraft to provide reconnaissance and share data with the U.S. Coast Guard.

“The presence of a high-endurance Coast Guard cutter conducting operations in the region demonstrates the U.S. commitment to regional partnerships and strengthening a coalition of like-minded countries to strengthen regional maritime governance and promote a rules-based regime for fisheries,” a U.S. Coast Guard statement said.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing deprives the international economy of billions of dollars, the Coast Guard said, adding that IUU fishing accounts for about 30 percent of all fishing activity worldwide and represents up to 26 million tons of fish caught annually. Those fish would be valued at between U.S. $10 billion and U.S. $23 billion.

The U.S. Coast Guard said the patrols were part of a broader strategy of promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region. “The U.S. is advancing a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific that excludes no nation,” said Capt. Robert Hendrickson, chief of response for the U.S. Coast Guard’s 14th District, according to The Diplomat, an online news magazine. “We are redoubling our commitment to establish alliances and partnerships while expanding and deepening relationships with new partners that share respect for sovereignty, fair and reciprocal trade, and the rule of law.”

The U.S. and Canada patrolled the waters surrounding Fiji as well as the nations of Kiribati, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The enforcement team boarded one fishing vessel and one fuel supply ship known as a bunkering vessel. The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating two potential violations of transshipment rules and vessel identification requirements. (Pictured: Boarding officers from the U.S. Coast Guard and Canada’s Conservation and Protection agency prepare to board a fishing vessel in the South Pacific in late January 2019.)

“Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing threatens food security, impacts the sustainability of fisheries and causes irreparable damage to marine and freshwater ecosystems across the globe. Partnerships, like this one with Canada’s Department of National Defence and the United States Coast Guard, are the key to tackling IUU fishing that threatens many vulnerable coastal communities,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s minister of fisheries, the ocean and the Coast Guard. “We will continue to work with other countries and assist small island developing states in combating IUU fishing to increase security and protect the health of fish stocks around the world.”