Copenhagen Declaration, Blue Justice Initiative

We are seeing what appears to be growing international cooperation to curb Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and with it, other forms of maritime criminal activity frequently associated with it. A basis for this cooperation is found in the non-binding UN Copenhagen Declaration, Blue Justice Initiative. 48 Nations have signed on to the declaration. It is basically a letter of intent to cooperate. It is reproduced at the end of the post. Notably it has not been endorsed by the US, Canada, UK, France, Australia, New Zealand, India, or China, but this is very important to many smaller nations. I would think the US Coast Guard would be all-in on this. It certainly does not preclude the kinds of bilateral agreements the Coast Guard has with dozens of nations.

How did I learn about this Declaration?

NORTHCOM’s on-line magazine, The Watch, reported on a March 2022 meeting of the Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM). This led me to look for more information on this organization. 

Below is the CRFM report on the meeting. Additional comments follow.


Belize City, Friday, 18 March 2022 (CRFM)—The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and the Caribbean Community Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS) hosted a Technical Meeting on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Organized Crime in the Fishing Industry this week. It marked an important milestone in the region’s efforts to fortify the region’s response to this very challenging and costly problem, through coordinated action at both the national and regional levels, with the support of the Government of Norway and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the Blue Justice Initiative.

The CRFM, its Member States, and partner agencies both at the CARICOM and international levels committed to advancing their collaboration using modern digital technology, to strengthen the region’s response to illegal fishing and transnational organized criminal activities, such as drugs, human and small arms trafficking, trade in contraband goods, document fraud and forgery, tax crimes, and money laundering, which use commercial and recreational fishing as a cover for their activities.

Last October, during a high-level meeting of CRFM Ministers, twelve (12) Member States signed the International Declaration on Transnational Organized Crime in the Global Fishing Industry (also known as the ‘Copenhagen Declaration’). They also endorsed the Blue Justice Initiative, which supports developing countries in operationalizing the Copenhagen Declaration, aimed at “promoting a sustainable and fair Blue Economy for all, that is free from fisheries crime.”

The CRFM and CARICOM IMPACS convened the technical meeting of senior fisheries and maritime law enforcement officers to identify priority actions to strengthen regional and international cooperation to combat and eradicate IUU fishing and transnational organized crime in the fisheries sector. The event marked an important milestone for the Caribbean region in collectively combating the scourge of crime connected with the fishing sector.

Over 90 participants from 15 Member States of the CRFM and representatives of the CARICOM Secretariat, the CRFM, CARICOM IMPACS, the Regional Security System (RSS), UNDP and the Government of Norway participated in the virtual session.

The meeting featured a diverse array of speakers who provided participants with insights on the Blue Justice Initiative and ‘Copenhagen Declaration, the UNDP Blue Resilience Project and its use of digital technology and institutional cooperation, tools and techniques to detect and analyze fisheries crime, and a general overview of fisheries crime in the Caribbean. Participants engaged in interactive sessions, as they contributed to charting the way forward.

In addressing the gathering, Hon. Saboto Caesar, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation, Industry and Labour, and Chair of the Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism, said: “The fight globally has increased against IUU fishing and organized crime, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the Member States of the CRFM continue to honor our duty… It is our quest in the Caribbean to partner with all international agencies to ensure that we reduce criminal activities when it comes to the Blue Economy. We intend to work with regional and international partners and other friendly governments such as Norway… because every Member State in the global community must play an important role.”

CRFM Executive Director Milton Haughton noted the seriousness and impacts of illegal and criminal activities in the fisheries sector and expressed the CRFM’s appreciation for Norway’s commitment to the sustainable use of ocean resources, through the Blue Justice Initiative and the Copenhagen Declaration. He thanked the Government of Norway and the UNDP for supporting the region in its efforts to help address this intractable problem.

Important Dates:

15 October 2018:

The Copenhagen Declaration was initially adopted by 9 countries: Faroe Islands, Ghana, Indonesia, Kiribati, Namibia, Norway, Palau, Solomon Islands and Sri Lanka.

10 December 2020:

Several Ministers responsible for Fisheries from the CARICOM / CRFM Member States took part in a virtual High-Level International Blue Justice Conference that was convened by the Government of Norway. The main purpose of the Conference was to promote and advance political support for the non-binding Copenhagen Declaration on Transnational Organized Crime in the fishing industry.

 21 May 2021:

At the Fifteenth Meeting of the Ministerial Council of the CRFM, Ministers discussed the issues and recognized the need for Member States to cooperate with other affected countries to improve understanding and knowledge of the problem, identify countermeasures, and build capacity to prevent, deter and eradicate IUU fishing and transnational organized crime in the fishing industry, in the region and globally. The Ministers issued Resolution No. MC 15(6) of 2021, documenting their position.

 4 October 2021:

During a special ministerial meeting, several Ministers from the Caribbean Community responsible for Fisheries, the Blue Economy and related matters, delivered official statements endorsing The International Declaration on Transnational Organized Crime in the Global Fishing Industry (also known as the ‘Copenhagen Declaration’). They also affirmed their support for the Blue Justice Initiative, established by the Government of Norway to support implementation of the declaration. (View the proceedings and country statementshere.)

Twelve (12) CRFM Member States, The Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and The Turks and Caicos Islands, signed the Copenhagen Declaration on this occasion.


This in turn led me to a CRFM report of a 5-8 April Ministerial Meeting of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), an organization of 79 member states. Seeing this degree of widespread interest, I had to look up the declaration.


THE DECLARATION

We, the Ministers of Benin, Chile, Costa Rica, Faroe Islands, Fiji, Ghana, Greenland, Honduras, Iceland, Indonesia, Kiribati, Liberia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Philippines, São Tomè and Principe, Scotland, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste and Uruguay;

Encourage other Ministers to support this non-legally binding declaration.

Note the recommendations and the outcome of the 2nd International Symposium on Fisheries Crime held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia 10–11 October 2016 which was published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime at the occasion of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice during its twenty-sixth session in Vienna 22–26 May 2017.

Recognize that our countries are dependent on the sea and its resources and the opportunities it holds for the economy, food and well-being of our population and we are determined to support a healthy and thriving fishing industry that is based on fair competition and the sustainable use of the ocean.

Are committed to work towards the fulfillment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals particularly in relation to Goal 14 on “Life Below Water” and Goal 16 on “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.”

Are convinced that there is a need for the world community to recognize the existence of transnational organized crime in the global fishing industry and that this activity has a serious effect on the economy, distorts markets, harms the environment and undermines human rights.

Recognize that this transnational activity includes crimes committed through the whole fisheries supply and value chain which includes illegal fishing, corruption, tax and customs fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, document fraud and human trafficking.

Recognize further the inter-continental flow of illegal fish products, illicit money and human trafficking victims in transnational organized crime cases in the global fishing industry and that all regions of the world need to cooperate when investigating such acts

Are convinced that inter-agency cooperation between relevant governmental agencies is essential at a national, regional and international level in order to prevent, combat and eradicate transnational organized crime in the global fishing industry,

Are also convinced that there is a need for international cooperation and that developing countries are particularly affected.

Recognize the particular vulnerability of small-island developing states and other Large Ocean Nations of the impact of transnational organized crime in the global fishing industry.

Are also convinced the need for continuous support on the highest level and the necessity for awareness raising on these issues through events such as the International FishCrime Symposium.

“Top US Commander Warns ‘Front Line’ With China Now South of Border” –Voice of America

Voice of America reports remarks by SOUTHCOM Commander, Admiral Craig Faller, regarding the growth of Chinese influence in the Western Hemisphere, including criminal activity and Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing.

This isn’t new. Through contributing author, Sanjay Badri-Maharaj (here and here),I have been following what has been happening in Trinidad and Tobago. I am sure similar interaction is happening elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere. Here is some background:

China’s Growing Influence in the Caribbean | Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (idsa.in)

China, Trinidad and Tobago pledge to consolidate friendship – CGTN

PM and Chinese President Xi Jinping engage in bilateral talks | Loop News (looptt.com)

“US Navy helicopters and Coast Guard snipers are firing on suspected drug traffickers ‘daily,’ top admiral says” –Business Insider

Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony Phillips, a precision marksman at Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, displays the weaponry used by a HITRON during missions, February 23, 2010. US Coast Guard/Petty Officer 1st Class Bobby Nash

Business Insider has a story touting the success of the Navy/Coast Guard team effort in drug interdiction. This seems to be a report on Adm. Craig Faller’s (SOUTHCOM) remarks at the Surface Navy Association symposium in mid-January.

There is strong praise for the HITRON personnel.

“Coast Guard HITRON teams, which are sniper teams, have integrated into US Navy helicopters. So our Navy crews are involved in decisions to use … warning shots and disabling fire daily. I mean, it is a daily event,” Faller added. “We average numbers, sometimes large numbers, of events daily, and they’ve done it safely, effectively, completely in compliance with all the law of war and with precision. [I’m] very proud of that.”

I have to believe the “daily” claim is at least a slight exaggeration, since presumably HITRON was involved in all the cases and the report quotes Cmdr. Ace Castle, public affairs officer for US Coast Guard Atlantic Area, as saying they prosecuted 56 in 2020.

In any case, HITRON is getting a workout and proving their value. Worth noting that they and other Coast Guard law enforcement detachments, also serve on foreign ships working for SouthCom, including British, Canadian, Dutch, and French vessels.

Freedom of Navigation off Venezuela

Orthographic map of Venezuela centered on Caracas
Controlled territory in dark green.
Claimed territory in light green.
From Wikipedia, Author: Addicted04

Perhaps significantly for the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction efforts in the Caribbean, Navy Times is reporting that the Navy has been conducting Freedom of Navigation Operations off the Venezuelan coast in response to excessive claims not in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

A command official said the mission was undertaken “to challenge Venezuela’s excessive maritime claim of security jurisdiction from 12 to 15 nautical miles along its coastline and prior permission requirement for military operations within the Exclusive Economic Zone, which are contrary to international law.”

These are waters where Coast Guard cutters conduct law enforcement operations. If Venezuela wants to make a show of opposing US operations in these waters, it would be a lot easier for them to take on a 210 that a DDG or even an LCS.

“Trinidad & Tobago Orders 2 Cape-class Patrol Boats from Austal” –Naval News

The Australian Customs patrol boat ACV Cape St George on Darwin Harbour in 2014, Photo by Ken Hodge

Naval News reports that Trinidad and Tobago has signed a deal for two Cape Class 58 meter patrol vessels from Austal in Australia. Contract is valued at 126M A$ or about $85.4M US. That is less than the cost of our Webber class cutters. Not that I think the USCG is in the market for anything like this right now. (Perhaps the Navy might consider it.) Still a comparison is interesting.

The Cape Class is a enlarged, improved version of the earlier Armidale class patrol vessels. The Cape Class was originally developed for the Australian Border Force, but the Australian Navy is currently also operating two of the class. Compared to the Webber class.

  • Displacement about twice as large: 700 tons vice 353
  • Length: 57.8 m (190 ft) vice 46.8 m (154 ft)
  • Beam: 10.3 m (34 ft) vice 8.11 m (26.6 ft)
  • Draft: 3 m (9.8 ft) vice 2.9 m (9.5 ft)
  • HP, less: 6,772 vice 11,600
  • Speed, slower: 25 vice 28
  • Crew, smaller: 18 vice 24
  • Boats: two on davits vice one in stern ramp

The dramatic difference seems to be range and endurance, 28 days and 4,000 miles vs five days and 2,500 miles, although I continue to believe the Webber class’ endurance could be improved with only a little effort. These little ships also have aluminum hulls, while the Webber class hull is steel. Also the Australian ships are armed with nothing larger than crew served machine guns. That appears to be just a matter of choice but it would increase the cost.

In some ways these look a lot like the French “La Confiance” PLG. meaning they are similar to the Cutter X concept, although I would favor something a little larger so that it might be able to operate a helicopter.

Our previous contributor on the Tinidad and Tobago Coast Guard, Sanjay Badir-Maharaj, questions the wisdom of this purchase, since The Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard seems to be having trouble maintaining the vessels it has now. Some degree of maintenance is included apparently, we wish them luck.

“Antigua, Sprawling “Chinese Colony” Plan Across Marine Reserve Ignites Opposition” –The Guardian

Map of the Caribbean Sea and its islands. Antigua can be seen on the NE corner of the Caribbean. Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons, author–Kmusser, all data from Vector Map.

There has been an interesting development in an area the Coast Guard frequents. The Guardian reports the Chinese are developing a part of the island of Antigua. Critics contend it will operate as a state within a state.

The 2000 acre development will include a seafood harvesting company.

“The master plan includes up to seven resorts, a shipping port (emphasis applied–Chuck), the country’s first four-lane highway, offshore “wealth management” centres, hospital and university facilities, a school, bank and a luxury golf community on adjacent uninhabited Guiana Island. The 400-acre industrial section includes steel and ceramic tile factories.”

The way the Chinese do things incrementally, this sounds suspiciously like it might be beginnings of a base.

At one time, Antigua was the site of NAVFAC Antigua, decommissioned 4 February 1984, an underwater listening station, part of the Surveillance System (SOSUS) and the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS), which were used to track Soviet submarines.

“Exclusive: ACLU Alleges Coast Guard Detained and Abused Fishermen” –The Atlantic

Photo source: ACLU

The Atlantic reports on a suit filed by the ACLU against the Coast Guard. I will make no comments on the merits. This is not the first time Coast Guard prisoner detention procedures have been questioned.

If the ACLU wins this case it could adversely effect our ability to perform the drug interdiction mission. This criticism is not going to go away. Any thing we could do to dull the criticism would probably be helpful.

“The Coast Guard Should Helm SouthCom” –US Naval Institute Proceedings

Source: UNrefugees.com

The US Naval Institute has published a feature article by two USCG Lieutenant Commanders, Krystyn Pecora and Piero Pecora, suggesting that perhaps a Coast Guard flag Officer should command SouthCom.

This would certainly put the US military presence in Latin America in a different light, after a history of US meddling in Latin American internal affairs.

“Safety, stability, and economic prosperity in this region will help allay the continuing migration crisis, lay the groundwork for disaster-resilient communities, and prevent a Chinese foothold in the Western Hemisphere. The traditional DoD approach of building partner-nation military capabilities through training and access to U.S. equipment in trade for forward-deployed staging access will not suffice to achieve these goals. It will require a focus on building local civil, law enforcement, and military authorities capable of rooting out TCOs—a mission tailor-made for the Coast Guard. “

While being a Combatant Commander would certainly be a change from the Coast Guard’s normal supporting role, it might not be too much of a stretch. After all, we are not engaged in actual combat in Latin America. Generally Coast Guard forces make up most of SouthCom’s operational units,

and other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) assets make up much of the rest.

Coast Guard leadership in SouthCom is a natural fit. Coast Guard officers have led SouthCom’s J-3 directorate for nearly a decade, and its primary component command, Joint Interagency Task Force–South, for nearly three decades. SouthCom’s lines of effort—building relationships, countering threat networks, and enabling rapid response—all align with the Coast Guard’s statutory missions.

Looking at the humanitarian crisis that is driving the illegal immigration at the border, DHS might see DHS coordination of the US response, in the form of a Coast Guard SouthCom, as the best hope for a long term solution.

Something is Happening in Venezuela

Orthographic map of Venezuela centered on Caracas. Controlled territory in dark green. Claimed territory in light green. From Wikipedia, author: Addicted04

Venezuela is in an area vital to the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction effort.

CBS is reporting,

President Trump recognized the chief opposition leader in Venezuela, National Assembly President Juan Guaido, as the country’s legitimate interim president. The rare move by the White House comes as large anti-government protests erupted across the South American nation on Wednesday.

The Organization of American States (OAS) recently passed a resolution agreeing not to recognize the legitimacy of Maduro’s new term, which began on January 10.

What happens next is anybody’s guess. Civil war is possible, and it already looks like a humanitarian crisis. That our cutters may become involved in some way is not out of the question.

Thanks to Andres for bringing this to my attention.

Tradewinds 2018 and the Caribbean’s Maritime Security Challenges–CIMSEC

Participants in the Tradewinds 2018 exercise. Seen here are U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Charles David Jr. (WPC-1107, most distant); the British RFA Mounts Bay (L3008, left), a Bay-class auxiliary landing ship dock; Canada’s HMCS Shawinigan (MM 704, right), a Kingston-class coastal defense vessel; and Mexico’s ARM Oaxaca (PO 161, foreground), an Oaxaca-class patrol vessel along with a Mexican helicopter AS365N3 Panther. 180616-N-ZZ999-0004.JPG Photo By: Able Seaman John Iglesias

CIMSEC provides a brief review of the SOUTHCOM sponsored 2018 Tradewinds exercise along with background information about current maritime security challenges in the Caribbean.