“US Bans Marine Scientific Research in its Waters Without Consent” –Global Security

Global Security reports,

“The United States has updated its policy on marine scientific research, requiring foreign ships to request permission before entering U.S. waters. It is the latest step by Washington to align U.S. law with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as it seeks to champion a rules-based order despite criticism from China for not ratifying the convention.”

This is expressly about the EEZ, not the territorial sea. What I find really remarkable here is,

According to the U.S. Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs, marine scientific research only includes “those activities undertaken in the ocean to expand knowledge of the marine environment and its processes.”

Hydrographic surveys – including those for military purposes — and resource exploration, which China’s research fleet is known for, are instead considered “marine data collection,” and thus are not affected under the updated policy.

OK, I can understand wanting to keep the door open for our hydrographic research in potential adversaries’ EEZ to inform submarine and anti-submarine operations, but EEZs are about “economic” pursuits. I would think that would include resource exploration.

Several of the South East Asian nations have objected to Chinese resource exploration in their EEZ, based on their interpretation of UNCLOS. Our statement seems to give cover for what most countries see as Chinese misbehavior.

The EEZ is supposed to allow the coastal state to regulate economic activity in adjacent waters. Why would we object to “those activities undertaken in the ocean to expand knowledge of the marine environment and its processes.” 


The Deputy Commandant for Operations (DCO) has released the “Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Strategic Outlook.” You can see the 40 page strategy document here. There is a short summary here.

The strategy promotes three “lines of effort.”

  • Promote Targeted, Effective, Intelligence-Driven Enforcement Operations.
  • Counter Predatory and Irresponsible State Behavior.
  • Expand Multilateral Fisheries Enforcement Cooperation.

A press release is quoted below. Make no mistake, this is a very big deal, and it is pointed directly at China’s predatory practices that are impoverishing coastal states dependent on fisheries.

united states coast guard

R 171209 SEP 20
UNCLAS //N16000//
ALCOAST 347/20
1. Today the Commandant promulgated the Coast Guard’s Illegal, Unreported,
and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Strategic Outlook, which emphasizes IUU fishing as a
pervasive security threat to U.S. national interests. IUU fishing, if left unchecked,
will result in deterioration of fragile coastal States and increased tension among
foreign-fishing nations threatening geo-political stability around the world.
Tackling IUU fishing requires experienced, capable, and trusted leadership. The U.S.
Coast Guard is a well-respected global leader in maritime safety and security; able to
lead a unified force to cement positive change and promote enhanced maritime governance.
This Strategic Outlook outlines the Service’s vision to strengthen global maritime
security, regional stability, and economic prosperity with the following Lines of Effort:
   a. LOE 1 Promote Targeted, Effective, Intelligence-Driven Enforcement Operations.
The U.S. Coast Guard will lead global efforts to detect and deter IUU fishing on the high
seas and in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of partner nations. Through the innovative
use of intelligence, technology, data analysis, and information sharing, we will identify,
target, and interdict illicit actors in the maritime domain in order to disrupt corrupt
cycles of influence that enable illegal operations.
   b. LOE 2 Counter Predatory and Irresponsible State Behavior. The U.S. Coast Guard will
prioritize operations and engagement in areas where our efforts are most critical to
demonstrate U.S. commitment and model responsible behavior. The U.S. Coast Guard will
shine a light on the activities of those who violate international rules-based order,
exposing and holding accountable the most egregious predatory actors.
   c. LOE 3 Expand Multilateral Fisheries Enforcement Cooperation. The U.S. Coast Guard
will build and maintain lasting cooperation with key partners to empower regional resource
conservation and management. Working with U.S. and international partners, the U.S. Coast
Guard will assist at-risk coastal States and like-minded nations to develop and maintain
their own robust counter-IUU fishing capacity, bolstering their governance and enforcement
systems and affirming the United States as a preferred partner. Through targeted, persistent,
and collaborative efforts, we will sustain and strengthen connections with partner nations
supporting international oceans governance.
2. Each line of effort depends on Unity of Effort, Partnership, Investment in the Future,
and Innovation to succeed.
3. Under this IUU Fishing Strategic Outlook, the U.S. Coast Guard will apply our broad
authorities, capabilities, capacities, and partnerships to be a global leader in the fight
against IUU fishing. Working with partners in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA), the Department of State (DOS), the Department of Defense (DOD),
and others, the U.S. Coast Guard will uphold a whole-of-government effort to advance
national interests in the maritime domain and promote economic prosperity. Through enhanced
engagement with like-minded nations and key maritime stakeholders, the U.S. Coast Guard
is ready to spearhead the global fight against IUU fishing.
4. More information and copies of the strategy can be found at: www.uscg.mil/iuufishing/.
5. POCs: CDR James Binniker at (202) 372-2187 or James.A.Binniker@uscg.mil.
6. VADM Scott A. Buschman, Deputy Commandant for Operations, sends.
7. Internet release is authorized.


“U.S. Coast Guard, Ecuadorian navy conduct joint patrol off Galapagos Islands” –PAC AREA

Below is a PAC AREA news release, reproduced in full. To put it into context, a huge fleet of Chinese F/Vs has been operating just outside the Ecuadorian EEZ surrounding the Galapagos Islands. Apparently there was enough concern that some might be engaged in Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing that PAC AREA sent a ship to back Ecuadorian enforcement. It is about 540 nautical miles between the Galapagos Islands and mainland Ecuador. For Bertholf, this is not a great deviation from the Pacific drug transit zones. The Ecuadorian cutter seen in the photographs is a Damen Stan Patrol 5009, 50 meters in length and 9 meters in beam. It has a “axe bow.” It is one of two ships of the class ordered in 2014. For such a small vessel, it has unusual endurance, 30 days, and can accommodate up to 32 people. Max speed is 23 knots.  

united states coast guard

News Release

Sept. 3, 2020
U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area
Contact: Coast Guard Pacific Area Public Affairs
Pacific Area online newsroom

U.S. Coast Guard, Ecuadorian navy conduct joint patrol off Galapagos Islands

VIDEO: U.S. Coast Guard, Ecuadorian navy conduct joint patrol off Galapagos Islands

 PHOTO: U.S. Coast Guard, Ecuadorian navy conduct joint patrol off Galapagos Islands  PHOTO: U.S. Coast Guard, Ecuadorian navy conduct joint patrol off Galapagos Islands  PHOTO: U.S. Coast Guard, Ecuadorian navy conduct joint patrol off Galapagos Islands

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version.

ALAMEDA, Calif. – In coordination with the Ecuadorian navy, the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750) recently completed a joint patrol to detect and deter potential Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands.

From Aug. 25-29, Bertholf patrolled over 3,000 square nautical miles of Ecuadorian and international waters and conducted joint operations with the Ecuadorian naval vessel LAE Isla San Cristobal (LG-30), providing persistent presence and surveillance of fishing activity throughout the region.

The joint operation highlights a significant Coast Guard partnership with a South American country to detect, deter and ensure adherence to international maritime norms for fishing.

Information gathered during the operation was shared with Ecuador to strengthen future compliance efforts and gain greater shared awareness of potential IUU fishing activity.

“It was a unique opportunity to sail together with the Ecuadorian navy, and we were impressed by their professionalism and dedication to the fight against illegal fishing,” said Capt. Brian Anderson, Bertholf’s commanding officer.  “This joint operation demonstrates the effectiveness and importance of our international partnerships.”

IUU fishing is a global security, economic, and environmental threat that undermines national sovereignty and weakens the international rules-based order. 

Up to 27 million tons of fish are caught illegally each year, which accounts for 20-30% of total global annual catch. Economic losses from IUU fishing are estimated to be as much as $23.5 billion per year.

“The United States remains committed to the international effort to combat IUU fishing and the illegal exploitation of the ocean’s fish stocks,” said Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, the Pacific Area commander.  “The U.S. Coast Guard will continue to safeguard our national interests and build lasting international partnerships that promote the rule of law and sovereignty for all nations.”

“Cutting Coast Guard funds threatens our security, at home and in the Pacific” –The Hill

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (left) moves in formation with Philippine coast guard vessels Batangas (center) and Kalanggaman during an exercise on May 14. U.S. Coast Guard/Chief Petty Officer John Masson

The Hill argues for increased Coast Guard presence in the Pacific including greater interaction with the nations of the Western Pacific.

After explaining why China is a greater threat than Germany, Japan, or the Soviet Union ever were, the author, Seth Cropsey, explains:

“The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is uniquely situated to act as a bridge between U.S. combat forces and their allied counterparts precisely because of its dual political-legal role. Its engagement in answering grey zone challenges is also a helpful encouragement to the maritime services’ cooperation that allows each service to perfect its unique skills.”

He argues for the 12th NSC.

“As it stands, the Coast Guard’s long-range cutters have been cut from ten in the Pacific to only six (actually we still have six NSCs and two WHECs–Chuck). If Congress does not fund the 12th National Security Cutter, it will undermine the Coast Guard’s mission in the Western Pacific and weaken U.S. security.”

Most importantly, as we have done several times here, he calls for a reevaluation of the services needs and recurrent long term planning.

Even more broadly, U.S. policymakers – within the Coast Guard, the Armed Forces, and the Pentagon – must consider the Coast Guard’s strategic role. The USCG has not produced a fleet plan, termed the “Fleet Mix Analysis,” since 2004. Even in 2008 and 2012, when it revisited the document, it concluded that its fleet could only meet three-fifths of its missions. In 2004, Chinese fighter aircraft seldom conducted night operations, North Korea had not yet tested a nuclear weapon, and the U.S. had toppled Iraq’s Saddam Hussein just a year before; Hamas was a small but noted Palestinian terrorist organization, while al-Qaeda in Iraq was still consolidating power.

After 16 years, any service’s missions and equipment must change as it adapts to new threats; the same is true for the Coast Guard. A robust force review is in order, potentially modeled off the Navy’s 30-year plan which will generate a new fleet capable of meeting the demands of great-power competition, especially in the Asia-Pacific.

China, Ready to Pick the Low Hanging Fruit?

Taiwan Coast Guard cutter KAOSHIUNG

BairdMaritime has a column suggesting China is training for an  “…invasion of Pratas Reef (Dongsha), a Taiwanese-garrisoned outcrop, situated some 170 nautical miles southeast of Hong Kong.” Possibly “…followed by an attack upon another Taiwan-manned islet, namely Taiping (Itu Abu), the largest and most habitable of the Spratly islands in the SCS. The two Taiwanese outposts, which are manned by Taiwan Coast Guard Administration (TCGA), retain some strategic value, particularly as both feature airfields, but the main advantage to be reaped by the PRC by their seizure would probably be political.”

That they feel the US will not intervene because, “the US Congress’ Taiwan Relations Act requires the US to come to the aid of Taipei in the event of a PRC attack on Formosa, or the Pescadores (Penghu), situated in the Taiwan Straits, but excludes Taiwan’s more distant territories.” 

Certainly any such attack, if successful, and unopposed by the US would seriously undermine American credibility as an ally, regardless of the specifics of US formal obligations to Taiwan.

“Cooperative Maritime Law Enforcement and Overfishing in the South China Sea” –CIMSEC

Republic of Korea Coast Guard vessel #3006 in company with U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Boutwell (WHEC-719) during the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum in August 2007. This forum was created to increase international maritime safety and security in the Northern Pacific Ocean and its borders. The Boutwell worked with the Korean coast guard while on their way to Yokosuka, Japan. The Japanese coast guard is one of the six nations involved in the forum.

CIMSEC brings us a discussion of the possibility of cooperative fisheries enforcement in the South China Sea to stop both overfishing and Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported (IUU) fishing and perhaps bring China into a more mutually beneficial relationship with her neighbors.

Earlier, I had a suggestion about how we might form an instrument of cooperative enforcement by forming a “Combined Maritime Security Task Force Pacific,” a law enforcement alliance rather than a military one.

Probably before that could be fully realized, the various nations with competing claims to the waters of the South China Sea, need to take their claims to the UN’s International Tribunal. The more nations use it, the more pressure on China to participate. If, they do not present a cases before the international their claims will be weakened.


For the Warship Geeks in the Group–China’s Type 055

Image Analysis of photo of Chinese shipyard showing multiple warships at various stages of … [+]H I Sutton, with permission from @Loongnaval

The US Naval War College Digital Commons has made available an evaluation of China’s new 12,000 ton cruiser, the type 055, and its place in the PLAN based primarily on Chinese sources. It looks to be balanced and talks about both the ships and the systems on board.

They are building a lot of these.


China’s Warship Construction. More Surface Warships Launched in 2019 than the USN has Commissioned in Five Years

Chinese warships launched in 2019.

Earlier I noted that the Chinese seemed to be building an incredible number of warships. Found this chart of surface warships launched in 2019. I have been unable to find the original source, the style appears to be from http://www.military-today.com/, but in any case, it appears to be correct.

16 Type 056 corvettes, 8 Type 052D destroyers, two type 055 destroyer/cruisers, a Type 071 LPD, and a Type 075 LHD. 28 surface warships total. It is possible some of the Type 056s are intended for export or for the China Coast Guard.

By way of comparison, over the last five years, 2015 through 2019, as nearly as I can tell, the US Navy commissioned 15 Littoral Combat Ships, five Burke class destroyers, two Zumwalt class destroyers, two LPDs, no big deck amphibs (LHD or LHA),  and one aircraft carrier. That is 25 surface warships total. The conclusion is a bit startling.

The Chinese launched more surface warships in 2019, than the US Navy commissioned in the last five years. 

The 19th and 20th Type 052D destroyers are launched in Dalian on May 10 (Image: 香港 文匯 網)

The LCS program is coming to an end, but there are still 16 to be commissioned. Generally the program has funded four per year, The FFG(X) program is expected to replace the LCS program in the Navy budget with one FFG funded in the first year followed by two frigates in each year to a total of 20. Combined with the LCS this should give the Navy 55 “small surface combatants.” The Chinese have about 50 frigates but this number is likely to decline as older ships are decommissioned, as their current frigate program, the Type 054A, is nearing completion.

The USN’s Zumwalt class destroyer program will end with three ships when the Lyndon B. Johnson is commissioned in the near future.

The Burke class DDG program was expected to continue building twelve ships over the next five years, but there has been a recent report that DOD would like to cut five ships to make room in the budget for development of more unmanned systems. Also suggested is that Ticonderoga class cruisers be retired early and that the first four LCS be decommissioned.

It is comforting to assume that Chinese systems and their training are inferior. We had similar assumptions about the Japanese before WWII. It is extremely dangerous to assume your own superiority. Plus while the US Forces spread all over the world, the Chinese are concentrated in their own theater of interest.

“The Chinese Navy Is Building An Incredible Number Of Warships” –Forbes

Image Analysis of photo of Chinese shipyard showing multiple warships at various stages of … [+]H I Sutton, with permission from @Loongnaval, (This is not a naval base just one of several shipyards-Chuck)

Forbes provides a reminder of the rate at which the Chinese Navy is overtaking the US Navy.

We did discuss this earlier, “Comparison, the Chinese Navy of 2030 and USN.”

The Chinese have begun building large surface combatants (destroyers and/or cruisers) at rate faster than that of the US (The US generally commissions two per year). The number the Chinese are expected to have commissioned in 2019 and 2020, as many as twelve, is staggering. Their first very large aircraft carrier equipped with catapults and arresting gear is expected to be commissioned in 2022, only three years after their first (smaller) domestically built aircraft carrier (The US builds one every five years). They seem to have begun building large amphibious warfare landing ships at about the same rate as the US. In addition they have built types with no counterpart in the US Navy including 60 Type 022 missile armed fast attack craft and Type 056 corvettes, 64 ordered to date, with about 8 built per year. They also have about 60 conventionally powered submarines and about 54 frigates while the US has neither type currently. 

If you would like to look into this in more detail. I would suggest the following Congressional Research Service Report.
“Table I, Numbers of Certain Types of Ships Since 2005,” on page 20 is particularly illustrative. You can see the trend with total number of Chinese vessels growing while the number of USN ships has remained relatively stable. It notes that the number of Chinese ships does not include auxiliary and support ships while the USN figure does not include patrol craft (the number given for 2015 actually does include the 13 Cyclone class patrol craft). If we counted the USN ships in the same way the Chinese ships are counted, by subtracting auxiliaries and support ships, and adding in the 13 Cyclone class Patrol Craft, the numbers for 2019 would be China 335, USN approximately 239. It is also worth noting that the Chinese fleet is younger than the US Navy fleet.
The US Navy is still larger in terms of both personnel and tonnage and has an overwhelming advantage in aircraft. The USN still has far more carriers (11 of which 5 are more than 30 years old), nuclear submarines, and destroyers and cruisers. But here, as elsewhere, the trend is against the US. (The number of USN nuclear submarines is actually expected to decline, but should exceed those of the Chinese Navy for the foreseeable future.)
Thus far the Chinese have succeeded in creating a situation where the USN operating inside the “First Island Chain” during hostilities would be exceedingly difficult. They clearly intend to have a local superiority. It the imbalance in ship construction continues they may achieve an absolute superiority.
They have now begun creating a Blue Water Navy with the capability to intervene virtually anywhere, following the USN model. This will give them the option of insuring that all those preditory loans they have been making are repaid or the collateral handed over.
China ultimately plans to bring Taiwan back into the fold, by force if necessary, but ferrying the necessary number of troops would be a herculean task, not unlike the Normandy invasion. The force of 38 large amphibious warfare ships that has, for many years, been the US Marine Corps stated objective, would have lifted only two brigades, not the multiple divisions that would likely be required to take Taiwan. Their large Coast Guard (248 ships according to the CRS report and growing) and maritime militia is as likely to be as instrumental in any invasion as the large amphibs they are currently building.


“China Can’t Be Trusted in the Arctic –USNI

A picture taken on November 16, 2011 from a South Korean helicopter shows Chinese fishermen wielding sticks to stop an attack by South Korean coastguard commandoes armed with clubs aboard rubber boats during a crackdown on alleged illegal fishing in South Korean waters in the Yellow Sea off the southwestern coast county of Buan. South Korea’s coastguard mobilised 12 ships, four helicopters and commandoes for a special three-day crackdown on illegal fishing by Chinese boats this week. REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT AFP PHOTO / DONG-A ILBO (Photo credit should read DONG-A ILBO/AFP/Getty Images)

The US Naval Institute Proceedings has a post by Commander William Woityra, U.S. Coast Guard

China’s failure to enforce treaties and sanctions and lack of corporate accountability should serve as a warning for the international community when it comes to Chinese participation in international agreements and instruments. Of recent interest is their 2018 signature of the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean. The signatory parties committed to curbing high seas commercial fishing in the Arctic until the ecosystem is better understood, no sooner than 2034. Beijing’s participation in the negotiations, and signing of the fisheries moratorium, helps bolster its long-term narrative of China’s identity as a “near-Arctic state” with a legitimate right to involve itself in decisions about the future of the region.

Lately I have come to suspect that China’s lax attitude toward Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) Fishing is not due to poor enforcement or even corruption, but that it is actually state policy and a part of a strategy to impoverish third world countries dependent on fishing, so that, encouraged by bribery, they will turn to China for loans for poor investment, that will default and ultimately allow the Chinese to take over their assets. Overfishing is perhaps an element in a new form of economic colonialism.