A Call for More Coast Guard in the Pacific

The US has the largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world (roughly 12,000,000 sq.km.), and roughly a fourth of it is in the Pacific, far south of Alaska, and west of Hawaii, in fact much more of it than is in the Arctic. While warming Arctic waters have been attracting a lot of press, if not much substantial action, the Central and Western Pacific EEZ has received relatively little attention, maybe because they don’t have any Congressional representation. I don’t have good figures on this, but looking at this chart of the US EEZ, its apparent that if Coast Guard assets were distributed on the basis of size of the EEZ, about 80% of the Coast Guard would be based in the Pacific.

Each little island out there, if it is more than 400 nautical miles from the nearest land, is surrounded by at least 125,664 square miles (431,000 sq.km) of territorial sea, contiguous zone, EEZ, and perhaps some additional continental shelf.

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, has called for greater cooperation between the US and New Zealand. Specifically he is calling for more USCG activity in the South Pacific to stop illegal fishing and drug smuggling, “I believe the time has come for New Zealand, the US and Australia to dramatically step up our collective surveillance activity in the region to provide a comprehensive assault on illegal activity…”

Apparently, talks are in progress now.

A lot of old CG icebreaker sailors have pleasant memories of Christchurch, New Zealand. Relations with New Zealand have been cool for decades because of a ban on nuclear weapons in New Zealand waters and a refusal by the US to “confirm or deny” the presence of nuclear weapons on our ships (I think once we refused to answer if the Eagle had nuclear weapons on board and she was denied permission to enter a New Zealand port).

That may be changing, as in Costa Rica, it looks like while the US Navy may not be welcome in New Zealand, the Coast Guard may be.

In addition to Guam, US territories and possessions in the Pacific include:

The other nation in the area with substantial assets and interests is France.

20 thoughts on “A Call for More Coast Guard in the Pacific

  1. Now why would the US Military or for that matter the US Coast Guard would ever want to pull into New Zealand port when New Zealand has a New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987 than bans any countries with Nuclear weapons from visiting New Zealand. I think if New Zealand wants the US to help them combat Illegal fishing, then New Zealand needs to scrap their Anti Nuclear policy before the US helps them combat with illegal fishing.

    • Relations with NZ has been a work in progress since Condoleezza’s visit a few years ago, with a few positive results. NZ wants the Free Trade Agreement (Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership), and once they get it, I’m pretty sure their stance on allowing nuclear weapons-capable ships to enter port will flip. Granted this won’t go as far as nuclear-powered ships entering port, but Japan has the same restrictions in our treaty with them, and we get along just fine.

      • True, relations with NZ is a work in progress, but what remains is the ANZUS treaty that we suspended with NZ because of their stance on Nuclear weapons. I think that if we are ever going to work with NZ, on illegal fishing they need to end their nuclear free treaty before the US does any joint work with the NZ. I also believe NZ is hurting for trade with the US and that’s why I think NZ is begging the US to help them with their illegal fishing.

    • Chuck,
      What is the makeup of the NZ Military and do they have a Coast guard. What is the nearest US Coast Guard Asset that can reach NZ.

      • Nicky,

        The closes assets are in Guam. Two 110′ patrol boats and one 225′ ocean buoy tender.

        However, the U.S. assets that do the most patrolling in the Western & Central Pacific are the cutters out of Honolulu.


  2. I bet the Kiwis get both. In this era of rough economies, it is not unreasonable for the U. S. to separate the two issues.

    A lot of those older coasties only have to look across the breakfast table to have memories of their Christchurch or Aukland visits.

  3. Chuck,

    This paywalled article at USNI explains the already substantial efforts the USCG is making to fight illegal fishing. Personally, I think this is the single best CG example of leveraging partnerships towards mission execution in the Coast Guard. We’ve helped implement 6 bilateral enforcement agreements, two international regional fishery management organizations (with enforcement provisions!), and use our defense contacts with PACOM and the Quadrilateral Talks (U.S., France, Australia, New Zealand).

    Every maritime “security” issue in the South Pacific has a fish nexus, no ifs, ands, or buts. Luckily, we’ve had a string of great leaders in D14 who have realized this and taken a “whole of government” approach to dealing with this issue.


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