Fisheries Regulation Coming to Waters Beyond the EEZ?

File:Irish fishing boat.jpg

Photo: The John B a fishing trawler with drum winches at Howth, Dublin, by William Murphy

Bryant’s Maritime Consulting points us to an announcement. 

In its resolution 69/292 of 19 June 2015, the General Assembly decided to develop an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

To that end, it decided to establish, prior to holding an intergovernmental conference, a Preparatory Committee, to make substantive recommendations to the General Assembly on the elements of a draft text of an international legally binding instrument under UNCLOS, taking into account the various reports of the Co-Chairs on the work of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.

This raises a number of questions. Who establishes the rules? Who is going to enforce this? How will the enforcer (whoever it may be) deal with uncooperative flag states? If a perpetrator is caught, where will they be jailed? Who will try the crewmembers? The owners? Where wil they serve their sentence?

Considering the lack of success with enforcement of the ban on drift nets and China’s refusal to follow the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s decision regarding the South China Sea, is this just political theater? Or will someone step up and give, what I presume will be an agreement, some teeth?

UN mandates have authorized the use of force in the past. Could maritime law enforcement wear a blue beret?

“Fisheries as a Strategic Maritime Resource”–Midrats

HMNZS Wellington intercepts suspected toothfish poachers

HMNZS Wellington intercepts suspected toothfish poachers

CIMSEC “Midrats” blog radio show has an online interview with a State Department employee I was lucky enough to meet earlier, Scott Cheney-Peters, LCDR, USNR about international fisheries issues. You can find it here. Nominally it is an hour, but it took me a little longer than that because download was not seamless.

The discussion also touches on international networking/cooperation/enforcement, maritime domain awareness, human traffic, drug enforcement, and the ship rider program.

Commandant’s Strategic Intent, Mid-Term Report

Coast Guard Capt. Douglas Nash, commanding officer of Coast Guard Air Sation Sacramento, salutes a Coast Guard C-27J pilot during a change of watch ceremony at Air Station Sacramento's hanger in McClellan Park, Thursday, July 1, 2016. The ceremony marked the final day that an HC-130 Hercules crew stood the watch at Air Station Sacramento and introduced the newest aircraft. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Loumania Stewart

Procurement of 14 C-27J aircraft was one of the achievements sited. C-27Js replace C-130s at CGAS Sacramento. 

The Commandant has issued a mid-term update on his earlier published “Strategic Intent, 2015-2019” (pdf). The new document is available in pdf format. You can find it here: “United States Coast Guard Commandant’s Strategic Intent, 2015-2019, Mid-Term Report.”

It is relatively short and readable at 21 pages. The recurring themes of the Commandant’s administration are all there, starting with TOC (transnational organized crime) and its deleterious effect on Western Hemisphere governance and prosperity. It does read a little like an Officer Evaluation Report input.

There is nothing particularly surprising here, but even for me, the enumeration of the scope the Coast Guard’s authorities, responsibilities, and international contacts is still mind boggling.

I am not going to try to summarize the report, but there were a few things that struck me.

The Commandant mentions service life extension programs for the seagoing buoy tenders (already begun), the 47 foot MLBs, and the 87 foot WPBs (in the future), but there is no mention of what we will do about the inland tender fleet. There will also be a life extension program for helicopters before they are finally replaced.

“Extend the service life of our rotary wing assets and align with DOD’s Future Vertical Lift initiative.”

There is mention of a program I was not aware of, the “Defense Threat Reduction Agency National Coast Watch System project.” The Defense Threat Reduction Agency attempts to track and reduce the WMD threat. It is not really clear what our role is here. We know about the container inspection programs in foreign ports. Is that it, or is there more to this? (that can be discussed at an unclassified level.)

Good News–and Bad, from the Western Pacific

A great New York Times article , “Palau vs the Poachers,” looking at Palau’s attempts to police their waters as a microcosm of the problems created by poaching and overfishing.

I’ll repeat my oft stated contention that we do not spend nearly enough time in the Western Pacific where the US has a huge chunk of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). There is a new Marine Reserve to protect. Plus we have an obligation to help former US territories that are now independent island nations struggling to effectively protect their own fisheries.

The work of “SkyTruth” and Google in crowd sourcing fisheries intelligence recounted here is encouraging, but there is simply to little enforcement. There were a couple of paragraphs that particularly stood out to me.

The oceans belong to everyone and no one, and the general perception is that they are too big to need protection. We also tend to think of fish as an ever-regenerating crop, there forever for our taking. But roughly 90 percent of the world’s ocean stocks are depleted or overexploited; one study predicts that by 2050, the sea could contain more plastic waste than fish. Though most governments have neither the inclination nor the resources to patrol the oceans, Palau is trying a different approach, and whether it succeeds or fails may have consequences for the entire planet.

In the span of one human lifetime, humankind has become brutally adept at plundering the seas. In the late 1940s, the annual global catch was roughly 16.5 million tons; now, after decades of innovation, this number is about 94 million tons. ‘‘That’s equivalent in weight of the entire human population at the turn of the 20th century, removed from the sea each and every year,’’ Paul Greenberg, an author of books about fish and seafood, told me.

Document Alert: World Wide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, 2/9/16

We have a statement for the record (pdf) from James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, dated February 9, 2016. Perhaps it is the nature of the beast, but there is no good news, and much that is bad.

Smuggling of every type appears to be on the rise including drugs and people. We can expect an increase in illegal immigration as a result of violence, poverty, and disorder in Latin America and particularly Cuba and Central America.

It is a relatively compact document. There are sections on Terrorism (pp 4-6), transnational organized crime (pp 11-12), Arctic (p 13), Environmental Risks and Climate Change (pp 13-14), health (including potential pandemics) (pp 14-15), and Global Displacement, “These 60 million consist of approximately 20 million refugees, 38 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), and approximately 2 million stateless persons, also according to UNHCR statistics.” (p.15)

There are also regional assessments including one on Latin America and the Caribbean (pp 28-29).

There is no regional assessment for the US. In terms of direct terrorist threats to the US, while there is a recognition of an aspiration on the part of various groups to attack the US, but the emphasis seems to be on “homegrown violent extremists” (HVEs) and there is nothing about the possibility of a maritime attack on the US. Is that because none exist?

Document Alert: U.S. Department of Defense’s Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy

The US Naval Institute News Service has made available the U.S. Department of Defense’s Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy.

I have only scanned it, but it does mention the Coast Guard in the context of freedom of navigation exercises and capacity building for our allies.