“U.S. Coast Guard cutters support Oceania partners during month-long Operation Aiga in South Pacific” –Press Release

Samoa. Photo Credit: TUBS, This vector image includes elements that have been taken or adapted from this: Polynesian triangle.svg (by Gringer).

Below is a press release in full. I don’t normally report routine operations, but this seems a bit out of the ordinary, and part of a renewed interest in the Central and Western Pacific. It is also another demonstration of the capability of the 154 foot Webber Class cutters (“traveling between Honolulu and American Samoa, 2,300 miles in nine days, without refueling en route”). It also demonstrates the multi-mission capability of the large buoy tenders.

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 14th District Hawaii and the Pacific
Contact: 14th District Public Affairs
Office: (808) 535-3230
After Hours: (808) 265-7748
14th District online newsroom

 Imagery Available: U.S. Coast Guard cutters support Oceania partners during month-long Operation Aiga in South Pacific 

USCGC Joseph Gerczak American Samoa boardings  USCGC Walnut gives tours in Samoa US Embassy and USCGC Walnut aboard HMNZS Otago

Editors’ Note: Click on images to see more, view video, or download a high-resolution version.
You can also visit our Operation Aiga feature page on DVIDS here.

HONOLULU — The crews of two Coast Guard cutters, the Walnut (WLB 205) and Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126), returned to Honolulu at the end of August following a successful deployment to Samoa and the U.S. territory of American Samoa, where they conducted operations to counter illegal fishing and strengthen relations with allies and partner nations. 

“Our Coast Guard crews demonstrated superior performance during intense operations over the past month in support of the Government of Samoa and within the U.S. territory of American Samoa,” said Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday, commander, U.S. Coast Guard 14th District. “Working with Australia and New Zealand, we supported the Government of Samoa by embarking Samoan law enforcement shipriders on a Coast Guard cutter to patrol their exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and ensure Samoan sovereignty. We also patrolled the U.S. EEZ around American Samoa to protect U.S. sovereignty. Our crews’ local engagements in Samoa and American Samoa reinforced our enduring shared values and Polynesian heritage, and advanced U.S. strategic interests in Oceania.” 

The operation, named ‘Aiga,’ the Samoan word for family, was first announced by U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz in a July interview describing the Coast Guard expansion of its permanent presence and effectiveness in the region through expeditionary capabilities, doubling down in Oceania.

The U.S. employs 11 bilateral shiprider agreements with Pacific Island Forum (PIF) nations throughout Oceania to help them counter illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing within their 200 nautical mile EEZ. Again, this operation was undertaken in coordination with Australia and New Zealand as Samoa awaits the delivery of its new, highly capable patrol boats from Australia later this year.

During the busy month-long deployment, the Walnut crew conducted numerous fishing vessel boardings with officers from the Samoan Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in the Samoan EEZ. The Walnut also carried Australian Fisheries Management Authority officers and a Chinese linguist from the U.S. Marine Corps. They further conducted maritime exercises with the Royal New Zealand Navy ship HMNZS Otago (P148) and Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Choules (L100). 

“It was a pleasure to assist the government of Samoa, as part of a bilateral shiprider agreement, in enforcing their maritime sovereignty and resource security to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing within their exclusive economic zone,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Jasnoch, commanding officer, Walnut. “We also had the privilege to strengthen our partnerships with New Zealand and Australia and proved our inter-operability by conducting at-sea maneuvers with Otago and Choules.” 

The Walnut crew engendered goodwill by hosting a reception with the U.S. Embassy for the acting prime minister of Samoa and senior Samoan government officials. The Walnut team also visited, read to, and played games with students at the Lufilufi Primary School in Apia. During a second port call, crews from Walnut and Joseph Gerczak attended sports practices with the Samoan Junior National Golf Team and American Gridiron football club. Both ships complement also hosted shipboard tours for dignitaries, a maritime academy, and the public. 

“The crew felt extremely rewarded to have these opportunities, and we look forward to returning to Samoa and American Samoa, hopefully soon,” said Jasnoch.

In support of strong maritime commerce and maritime transportation system, the Walnut crew installed a new Automatic Identification System (AIS) transmitter in American Samoa designed to notify mariners of the location of navigational hazards within the harbor if the physical aid marking the hazard is damaged or not working properly. The crew also recovered a sunken buoy in Pago Pago and replaced it with a new one to ensure safe navigation for mariners transiting in and out of the U.S. strategic deepwater port. 
The Joseph Gerczak set a new mark for the expeditionary deployment of the 154-foot fast response cutters by traveling between Honolulu and American Samoa, 2,300 miles in nine days, without refueling en route.  

During the deployment, the Joseph Gerczak crew also conducted professional exchanges with the New Zealand navy crew of Otago.

“The exchange with the Otago crew was a great opportunity to share best practices and hear their knowledge of this area including Samoa and the high-seas pocket that we do not frequently patrol,” said Lt. James Provost, commanding officer, Joseph Gerczak. “It was a great experience to see how another nation’s navy operates and the similarities and differences between us.”

The Joseph Gerczak crew conducted joint boardings in the U.S. EEZ around American Samoa with U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration enforcement officers and the American Samoa Marine Police. Later, the Joseph Gerczak joined up with Walnut in Apia, Samoa to participate in community relations events on behalf of the U.S. Embassy. The Joseph Gerczak also assisted local responders with search and rescue efforts for two teenagers swept out from shore by high swells off the main island of Tutuila. Despite the best search efforts by all involved, the teens remain missing. All of these efforts had a profound impact on the crew.

“It’s been a long patrol, but getting out to Samoa, meeting some of the locals and getting to take part in operations was well worth the trip,” said Joseph Gerczak Fireman Ty Kamiyama. “It’s good to know that we have laid a foundation to continue building strong relations with the Samoan community.”

“This patrol was an amazing experience to see firsthand just what our asset is capable of,” said Joseph Gerczak Petty Officer 3rd Class Scott Sabatini. “I thought getting to see the culture in Samoa was amazing. I got to go out with several other crewmembers to teach local youth about American football. It was such an enriching and rewarding time for all of us.”

The U.S. and its allies are trusted partners in Oceania. Operation Aiga is one of several operations conducted by the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and France as part of the Pacific Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group (Pacific QUAD) in support of PIF countries. The Pacific QUAD has historically supported PIF countries in their efforts to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing in their exclusive economic zones. This year, the Pacific QUAD expanded the scope of its activities to encompass the broad range of maritime security concerns expressed by the PIF in the 2018 Boe Declaration.

The Walnut is a 225-foot Juniper-Class seagoing buoy tender responsible for maintaining aids to navigation, performing maritime law enforcement, port, and coastal security, search and rescue and environmental protection. Designed to patrol coastal regions, the Joseph Gerczak is a 154-foot Sentinel-Class fast response cutter and one of the newest patrol boats in the fleet to replace the 1980s-era 110-foot Island-class patrol boats. Both vessels call Honolulu their homeport.

Coast Guard Day in the South Pacific. The command from USCGC Walnut (WLB 205) conduct an exchange with peers on HMNZS Otago (P148) discussing mission, challenges and comparing shipboard life in the region while off Samoa Aug. 4, 2019. The Walnut and Otago crews are in the region combating illegal fishing, a part of promoting maritime governance and a rules based international order that is essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific. (Photo courtesy HMNZ Navy Lt. Samuel Murray/Released)

“The United States Ratifies Central Arctic Ocean Fisheries Agreement” –DOS

The Arctic, note the US includes the Aleutians and the Bearing Sea as part of the Arctic

Department of State announced ratification of an agreement to prevent unregulated fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean (I am assuming this means in the areas outside the Arctic nations’ EEZ). This may mean, at some point, the CG will be conducting fisheries enforcement in the central Arctic Ocean. The State Department announcement is reproduced below. (Thanks to Bryant’s Maritime Consulting Blog for bringing this to my attention.)

—-

The United States is the fourth party to ratify the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean after Canada, the Russian Federation, and the European Union. The Agreement will enter into force once all ten Signatories ratify.

There are currently no commercial fisheries in the Arctic high seas, with most of the region covered by ice year round. However, with an ever-increasing ice-free area in the summer for an increasingly lengthy portion of the year, parties anticipate that commercial fishing will be possible in the foreseeable future. This Agreement is the first multilateral agreement of its kind to take a legally-binding, precautionary approach to protect an area from commercial fishing before that fishing has even begun.

Signed in Greenland on October 3, 2018, there were ten participants in the negotiation of the Agreement: Canada, the People’s Republic of China, the Kingdom of Denmark (in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland), the European Union, Iceland, Japan, the Kingdom of Norway, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America. The Agreement has two principal objectives: the prevention of unregulated fishing in the high seas portion of the central Arctic Ocean and the facilitation of joint scientific research and monitoring.

Coast Guard patrols North Pacific in support of international fisheries

Below is a news release in full. USCGC Mellon is in the North Pacific, but this is not a typical ALPAT (Alaska Patrol). In addition to working with US authorities, she is working with, “five Pacific Rim countries and three regional fisheries management organizations (RFMO).” This is, I presume, the Coast Guard helping nations of the Western Pacific deal with those who would steal their livelihood and deplete their environment.  

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska
Contact: 17th District Public Affairs
Office: (907) 463-2065
After Hours: (907) 209-6509
17th District online newsroom

Coast Guard patrols North Pacific in support of international fisheries

A boarding team aboard an over-the-horizon cutter boat from Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC-717) transits toward a fishing vessel to conduct an at-sea boarding in the North Pacific Ocean, Aug. 13, 2019. Mellon is patrolling in support of Operation North Pacific Guard (NPG) 2019. U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo by Coast Guard Cutter Mellon. 

Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC-717) patrols nearby as a boarding team conducts an at-sea inspection aboard Panamanian-flagged transshipment vessel Yung Da Fa 102, in the North Pacific Ocean, July 10, 2019. Mellon is patrolling in support of Operation North Pacific Guard (NPG) 2019. U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo by Coast Guard Cutter Mellon. A boarding team aboard an over-the-horizon cutter boat from Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC-717) transits toward Chinese-flagged fishing vessel Lurong Yuan Yu 899 as it offloads catch onto the Russian-flagged transshipment Vessel Pamyat in the North Pacific Ocean, July 15, 2019. Mellon is patrolling in support of Operation North Pacific Guard (NPG) 2019, conducting boardings to detect and deter all types of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activity. U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo by Coast Guard Cutter Mellon.

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

JUNEAU, Alaska — The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC 717) continues their North Pacific patrol in support of Operation North Pacific Guard (NPG) 2019, protecting living marine resources, enforcing international fisheries agreements and conducting global security missions.

Since June, Mellon’s crew has conducted 40 boardings and issued 61 violations. Twenty-five were serious violations because of their potential to severely impact fisheries and/or blatant disregard for conservation and management measures. Their most frequent violations were improper vessel marking (9), illegal shark finning (4), and improper use of or intentional tampering with the vessel monitoring system (2).

“These fisheries patrols are vital to demonstrating the U.S.’s commitment to our regional partnerships while strengthening regional maritime governance and promoting sustainability of living marine resources,” said Capt. Jonathan Musman, commanding officer of cutter Mellon. “I’m extremely proud of the work we’ve done this patrol, and it’s a direct result of the hard work of this crew as well as the continued support of our international partners. Together, we’ve put in a lot of hours and a lot of work, and we’ve seen impressive results because of it.”

Mellon’s deployment is in support of U.S. goals for the conservation and management of high seas fisheries resources to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activity from the North Pacific. NPG 2019 showcases a multi-mission effort between the Coast Guard, NOAA, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, five Pacific Rim countries and three regional fisheries management organizations (RFMO). Unlike previous years’ operations, Mellon has conducted high seas boardings and inspections on the North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC) fishing vessels, while continuing to conduct Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) boardings.

“We’ve seen a 344 percent increase in boardings and 867 percent increase in violations compared to last year’s operation,” said Lt. Cdr. Kristen Caldwell, living marine resource program manager, Pacific Area. “This increase highlights the significance of employing differing authorities all aimed at mitigation of IUU fishing, capitalizing on a highly capable resource to maximize time on scene and the targeting of IUU vessels.”

NPG 2019 was designed to conduct law enforcement operations in support of RFMO in the North Pacific Ocean. Through the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum (NPCGF) and North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission’s (NPAFC) enforcement coordination process, each partner nation contributes to this at-sea enforcement effort by providing surface patrols and/or air surveillance.

This operation is in direct support of the National Security Strategy as it aligns with the tenant of “achieving better outcomes in multilateral forums,” as well as by addressing the risks to sovereignty of developing nations by China identified in the Indo-Pacific Region. The 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) also has identified China as a “strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.” A goal of the NDS is to “support U.S. interagency approaches and work by, with, and through our allies and partners to secure U.S. interests and counteract this coercion.”

Due to the increasing threat, complexity and diversity of tactics in IUU fishing, it is critical to ensure oversight and enforcement in regions in which the United States has jurisdiction and authority to mitigate the rapidly developing influence of specified fleets known to engage in IUU fishing. Efforts to increase the ability of the United States to check the threat of IUU fishing in the Pacific Ocean have been continuous, with the recent success of the adoption of high-seas boarding inspections (HSBI) for the Northern Pacific Fisheries Commission and continued efforts in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission’s (NPFAC) Convention Areas.

During NPG 2019, Mellon embarked two Canadian shipriders from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans as well as two aircrews from Coast Guard Air Station North Bend.

Mellon, a 378-foot high endurance cutter with a crew of 150, is homeported in Seattle and routinely deploys in support of counter-drug and alien migrant interdiction, living marine resources and search and rescue missions.

USCGC Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126) arrives in American Samoa on patrol

The crew of USCGC Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126) prepare to moor at the port of Pago Pago, American Samoa, Aug. 3, 2019. They will conduct a joint fisheries patrol with NOAA Fisheries and American Samoa Marine Police members. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir/Released)

Below is a press release from District 14 (Hawaii). It suggest two things.

  • They are paying more attention to the threat of illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing in the Pacific, and
  • They are exploring the limits of recently arrived Webber class “Fast Response Cutters” (FRC).

The Joseph Gerczak is based in Honolulu. The distance from Honolulu to Pago Pago by air is 2259 nautical miles (4184 km). That is less than the nominal 2500 currently being reported as the range for the class and less than the 2950 miles that was claimed for the class earlier, but that appears to leave little in the way of reserve. The nine day transit referred to also exceeds the nominal five day endurance of the FRCs.

The news release also indicates that the USCGC Walnut (WLB-205) is also in the area, so the Walnut may have escorted the FRC and may have refueled and replenished it underway as was done when Walnut provided underway replenishment for Oliver F. Berry (WPC-1124) for a 2200 mile transit to the Marshall Islands.

I would welcome any comments about how the operation was actually done. But could an FRC make the trip unrefueled? As I recall the 2950 nmi range claim was based on a speed of 14 knots. Transiting at a lower speed should increase range. How fast did they go? Nine full days, 216 hours would have averaged about 10.5 knots. Still nine days may have meant a short day at the start and another short day on arrival so it may have been closer to eight 24 hour days or about 192 hours total that would equal an average speed of a little under 12 knots. In any case it is likely the transit could have been made unrefueled with a reasonable reserve. Even if that were the case, CCGD14 probably kept Walnut close in case they ran into trouble. They are pushing the envelope.

America Samoa location. Author: TUBS

The news release (more pictures here):

—-

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa — The Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126) arrived in the Port of Pago Pago, Saturday.

The crew is participating in Operation Aiga to conduct fisheries law enforcement and strengthen partnerships in American Samoa and Samoa throughout August.

“It was a good transit, the longest we’ve conducted yet, nine days at sea and we’re proving the capabilities of these new cutters to operate over the horizon throughout the remote Pacific,” said Lt. James Provost, commanding officer of Joseph Gerczak. “This is the first time a Fast Response Cutter has come to Pago Pago. We’re looking forward to hosting our partners and the public during tours Monday from 1 to 3 p.m. here at the port.”

The U.S. Coast Guard is uniquely positioned to enforce U.S. federal laws and regulations in the territorial waters of American Samoa. Worldwide, tuna is a $7 billion dollar annual industry and roughly 70 percent of that tuna comes from the Western and Central Pacific. These pelagic fish migrate and it is essential the U.S. and its partners protect the resource from illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing. Estimates place the value of IUU fishing around $616 million annually.

“After this port call, we will be working with NOAA fisheries and the American Samoa Marine Police to enforce fisheries regulations in the region while on patrol. Oceania countries adhering to the rule of law deserve and even playing field. Presence, partnerships, and regular enforcement can deter IUU fishing and safeguard these critical fish stocks,” said Provost.

The Coast Guard Cutter Walnut (WLB 205) crew will also be conducting a fisheries mission with shipriders from Samoa aboard to enforce sovereign laws in their EEZ and deter IUU fishing. This effort is being undertaken in coordination with Australia and New Zealand as Samoa transitions their organic patrol assets, upgrading their fleet. Both cutter crews will also respond to any emergent search and rescue needs in the area and seek out opportunities to work with partner nation assets.

The Coast Guard exercises 11 bilateral shiprider agreements with Pacific Island Forum nations to help ensure regional security and maritime sovereignty.

“The U.S. is committed to supporting our allies and neighbors in the Pacific, which is essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The Joseph Gerczak is a 154-foot Sentinel-Class Fast Response Cutter homeported in Honolulu. It is one of the newest patrol boats in the fleet, replacing the aging 110-foot Island-Class patrol boats serving the nation admirably since the late 1980s. Three Fast Response Cutters will be homeported in Honolulu, the third arriving in August. Three will also be stationed in Guam and are to begin arriving there in 2020.

Exercise Obangame Express 2019 –Capacity Building in West Africa

Coast Guardsmen assigned to U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thetis (WMEC-910) approach a stranded fishing vessel to render assistance in the Gulf of Guinea, March 14, 2019. Thetis, homeported in Key West, Florida, is on its first patrol to support operations with U.S. Africa Command and U.S. 6th Fleet. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally/Released)

Coast Guardsmen assigned to U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thetis approach a stranded fishing vessel to render assistance in the Gulf of Guinea. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally)

USCGC Thetis (WMEC-910) has been participating in a capacity building exercise in the Gulf of Guinea. I would not have known that except that the cutter rescued a couple of fishermen already given up for dead.

Looking for news of the wrap up, Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples, and commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, did recognize the cutter.

More than 220 U.S. military personnel participated in OE19, including the crew of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thetis (WMEC 910). Specifically, United States forces conducted training in visit, board, search and seizure, maritime interdiction operations, legal, and surface warfare.

This was a pretty big exercise.

“We brought 33 countries together, [including] 95 ships, 12 high-performance aircraft, 19 maritime operations centers, [all] tied together in Obangame Express, and seven national military command centers for over 80 scenarios and exercises in the last two weeks,” said Foggo.

https://www.stripes.com/news/us-partners-work-to-strengthen-sea-policing-as-piracy-off-west-africa-surges-1.573639

This is the ninth iteration of the exercise.

“Obangame Express has grown in scope from a communications exercise to become what it is now — a comprehensive maritime security event that exercises the full spectrum of activities from command and control, to maritime force responses, and ultimately the handing and transfer of evidence to bring criminals to justice,” said Rear Adm. Heidi Berg. “Today, we face serious challenges at sea such as illegal fishing, trafficking of weapons, narcotics, people, and the ongoing threat of piracy. This illicit activity undermines rule of law, food security, and economic development. Our efforts here will help make the region a safer place for maritime commerce and help increase prosperity throughout the region.”

The 33 nations scheduled to participate include Angola, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Togo, Turkey and the United States, as well as the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of Central African States.

One of the highlights of the event was the opening of a Maritime training school in Nigeria.

As part of the events to open the 2019 Obangame Express, Consul General Bray and Vice Admiral Ibas commissioned the Nigerian Navy’s Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) Training School in Apapa. The training school was built by the Nigerian Navy and equipped by the United States Navy.

 

Gulf of Guinea, from Wikipedia

If you look at the Gulf of Guiana you can see that a fleeing pirate can quickly transit from one jurisdiction to another. They need cooperation between neighboring states.

Obangame Express is part of a comprehensive strategy by U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa to provide collaborative opportunities among African forces and international partners that address maritime security concerns. The Nigerian Navy is hosting the 2019 exercise from March 14 to 22.

The word ‘Obangame’ comes from the Fang language of southern Cameroon and other parts of Central Africa. It means “togetherness.”

This area still needs a lot of help. Five crew members were recently kidnapped off of an Offshore Support Vessel despite protection of an armed Nigerian Navy escort. One Nigerian Navy Guard was killed in the exchange of gun fire.

“According to the International Maritime Bureau, the number of piracy incidents reported in the Gulf of Guineas in 2018 in surged to 201 incidents, including six hijackings, marking a steep rise from 180 incidents in 2017 and 191 in 2016. Among the 201 incidents reported, there were 13 ships were fired upon, 130 hostages taken, and 78 seafarers kidnapped for ransom. To make matters worse, some experts estimate that some 40% of incidents in the region go unreported, so the number of actual incidents is likely much higher. “

They do seem to be making some progress in achieving greater coordination helped by these exercises.

COMMODORE OLISEMENOGOR: “… Within the last three months in Western Naval command areas, I think we have arrested over fifty-something vessels based on this collaboration with other nations.”

U.S., Canada conduct fisheries enforcement with partner nations in South Pacific

The following is a Fourteenth District new release. This is a follow up to an earlier post/news release. Since Nov. 2018 we have had Munro, Bertholf, and Mellon in the Western Pacific. Really looks like it is becoming routine, now with help from Canadian maritime patrol aircraft.

united states coast guard 
Fri, Feb 15, 2019 6:25 pm
Coast Guard Fourteenth District Hawaii and the Pacific News (coastguardfourteenthdistrict@service.govdelivery.co
 

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 14th District Hawaii and the Pacific
Contact: 14th District Public Affairs
Office: (808) 535-3230
After Hours: (808) 341-9849
14th District online newsroom

Imagery Available: U.S., Canada conduct fisheries enforcement with partner nations in South Pacific

Joint boardings Mellon and CP-140 Boarding team

Editors’ Note: Click on images to view more and download high-resolution versions.

HONOLULU — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC 717) continues their patrol of the South Pacific with partners from several nations in January and into February.



“The U.S. is advancing a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific that excludes no nation. 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,” said Capt. Robert Hendrickson, chief of response for Coast Guard 14th District. “We rely on partners, allies, and like-minded nations to achieve our missions.”

Following their first leg, the crew embarked ship riders from Fiji and Tuvalu to enforce Fisheries laws in each partner nations’ respective exclusive economic zones (EEZ). The Mellon’s boarding teams and the fisheries officers conducted a professional exchange and law enforcement training, sharing tactics and best practices. This effort was coordinated with significant support from Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing deprives the international economy of billions of dollars and undermines the livelihoods of legitimate fishers from all nations. It impacts food security, affecting millions of people, including many vulnerable coastal communities. It is estimated that IUU fishing accounts for about 30 percent of all fishing activity worldwide, representing up to 26 million tons of fish caught annually, valued at between $10 to $23 billion.

“Coast Guard 14th District personnel began partnering with Canada’s DFO in July when two DFO officers joined U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sequoia (WLB 215) for a 23-day patrol on high seas west of Guam,” said Hendrickson. “Sequoia’s deployment was incredibly successful, resulting in 15 suspected violations of Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s conservation and management measures while completing 11 foreign vessel inspections. The important trip helped to cement the Coast Guard and DFO’s growing partnership for enforcement in Oceania.”

Two DFO officers joined Mellon’s crew for the transit from Hawaii to Fiji after attending the Coast Guard’s Pacific Regional Fisheries Training Center course for Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) enforcement. They conducted high seas boardings along the way. Canada’s Air Force committed a CP-140 Aurora fixed-wing aircraft to provide maritime domain awareness for Mellon over two weeks, as well as delivering fishery enforcement operations for several regional Pacific Island countries. The DFO deployed two of their officers with the Aurora, and the Coast Guard sent a specialized fisheries training officer from the Regional Training Center to assist the aircrew with specific fisheries details and information for the crew. Working with Canada’s Department of National Defence and the U.S. Coast Guard, they patrolled around Fiji and the island nations of Kiribati, Tokelau, Vanuatu, and Tuvalu. IUU fishing is of particular concern in this area as several small island developing states have some of the most vulnerable waters for IUU fishing and need support from other nations.

Throughout the patrol, fishery officers were part of seven reconnaissance flights by the Aurora, to provide a visible surveillance presence and to help enforce WCPFC conservation measures. The Aurora detected and documented 101 fishing vessels during the mission, providing critical data to the U.S. Coast Guard patrol and the Forum Fisheries Agency, which coordinates enforcement amongst the island nations. The Canadian aircraft also patrolled the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, a UNESCO world heritage site where fishing is banned. The Aurora was able to ensure the area was clear of fishing activity during its patrol. 

“The U.S. Coast Guard and the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans have a long history of working together to ensure the viability of fish stocks off North America. Working with experts from Canada and regional leaders like Fiji is vital to ensuring food security and the rule of law in Oceania. Working together we are helping to ensure a more secure, free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Hendrickson.

Fishery officers aboard the cutter Mellon patrolled over 1,786 square miles (2,875 square kilometers) within the WCPFC convention area. They were also part of the enforcement team that boarded two boats: 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 aboard the vessels inspected during the mission.

These recent patrols were part of Canada’s international commitment to support fisheries on the high seas and tackle IUU fishing, which is a significant contributor to declining fish stocks and marine habitat destruction around the world.

“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. 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,” said the Honorable Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.