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.

 

“Coast Guard patrols South Pacific in support of international fisheries”

A boarding team from the Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC 717) approach a fishing vessel on the high seas in January 2019 while patrolling in support of counter-Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing and global security missions. Mellon’s crew is supporting international fisheries on the high seas and enforcement of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Mellon)

When I reported Betholf’s departure for the Western Pacific, Jan. 22, 2019, I speculated that after Munro’s visit to the Solomon Islands and Fiji, reported Dec. 8, 2018, that perhaps we were seeing the start of a new trend. Apparently I was a bit late in my prediction because, apparently Mellon had already followed Munro into the Western Pacific, departing Seattle shortly after Christmas. The CCGD14 news release below will explain.

Something else I noticed in the news release, was that while in Hawaiian waters, Mellon had conducted Astern Re-fueling-at-Sea training with the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126). We also had a report of an underway refueling of a Webber Class Cutter when USCGC Oliver F. Berry (WPC-1124) completed a 2,200 mile transit for Operations in the Marshall Islands. Could this be preparation for multi-unit operations in the Western Pacific?

Crew from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mellon performed two community outreach events while in Suva, Fiji, in January 2019. Children admitted at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva had the opportunity to meet with and hear stories from the crew during their community relations event at the hospital led by Petty Officer 3rd Class Sarah Patanapaiboon and the crew also refurbished the hospital gardens. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Mellon)

The News Release

HONOLULU — Following a stop in Fiji in late January, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC 717) continue their South Pacific patrol in support of counter-Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing and global security missions.
 
The presence of a high endurance Coast Guard cutter conducting operations in the region demonstrates the U.S. commitment to regional partnerships and strengthening a coalition of like-minded countries to strengthen regional maritime governance and promote a rules-based regime for fisheries.
 
Mellon’s crew is supporting international fisheries on the high seas and enforcement of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Upon arrival in the WCPFC convention area, they partnered with the Canadian Armed Forces who flew seven reconnaissance flights improving maritime domain awareness and aiding in the enforcement of the WCPFC convention. Patrolling over 1,110 square miles within the WCPFC convention area, the Mellon’s law enforcement team boarded two vessels, one fishing vessel and one bunkering vessel. Both boardings resulted in potential violations of conservation management measures including high seas transshipment and specifications for the marking and identification of fishing vessels. 
 
“Participating in the WCPFC ties into a broader strategy the Coast Guard is pursuing in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Capt. Stephen Burdian, commanding officer, cutter Mellon. “Throughout the area, the U.S., and by extension the Coast Guard, is encouraging relationships respecting the sovereignty, supporting fair and reciprocal trade, and the rule of law in an open and free Oceania. Through a tactical lens, that strategy looks like a Coast Guard boarding of a foreign fishing vessel, while on the high seas or in a sovereign Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) jointly with a member of that country’s enforcement team. On this patrol, we are fortunate to have excellent support from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and our Canadian counterparts.”
 
While on a port call in conjunction with the US Embassy in Suva, Fiji, the crew strengthened partnerships with Pacific Islands Nation communities by participating in community relations events at a local animal shelter, children’s hospital and garden.  At the animal shelter crew members engaged with kittens and puppies while giving animals baths and general clean-up of the shelter.  At the children’s hospital and garden, the crew read books to children and tidied up the garden area.  
 
Mellon’s crew of 150 departed their homeport of Seattle shortly after Christmas. They made a brief stop in Hawaii for fuel and supplies. This stop was leveraged for training as the crew conducted Astern Re-fueling-at-Sea training with the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126). Also, they worked with Air Station Barbers Point crews to complete 72 shipboard helicopter evolutions over three days, resulting in the qualification of three M H-65 Dolphin helicopter pilots and 10 flight deck personnel aboard Mellon.  The cutter also embarked two Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans Officers, two U.S. Navy Aerographer’s Mates, and one U.S. Marine Corps Mandarin translator while in Hawaii for the upcoming operations. The crew is more than 8,000 miles into their patrol and have taken every opportunity for professional development with more than 40 crew earning new qualifications.
 
Oceania covers an area of 3.3 million square miles and has a population of 40 million and is home to some of our valued strategic partners in the Pacific Island Nations as well as Australia and New Zealand, with whom the U.S. has aligned for more than a century.
 
The importance of the Pacific Islands is very evident as the Coast Guard continues operations in the region and the U.S. strengthens partnerships with the governments of these nations. We recognize tourism and exports, both requiring a great deal of commercial vessel traffic, are a primary economic driver. Tuna represented a nearly $5 billion industry in 2015 with more than half the world’s tuna is sourced from the Western Pacific. In 2017 reported landings were 2.5 million tons of fish.
 
The presence of a high-endurance cutter in this part of the Pacific to enforce Conservation and Management Measures established by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission represents the U.S. and the Service’s commitment to our partnerships in the region. This body represents another essential collaboration. The WCPFC is an international body made up of 43 nations and international organizations. Members agree to allow the 13-enforcer nations in the pact to board and record any potential violations on their nationally flagged vessels. The findings go to the WCPFC who notifies the vessel’s flag state of the suspected infraction for further investigation.
 
“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,” said Capt. Robert Hendrickson, Chief of Response for Coast Guard 14th District. “Working together we are helping to ensure a more secure, free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Alameda-based Coast Guard cutter and crew depart for Western Pacific patrol


Got a news release reporting the departure of Bertholf from Alameda California for a Patrol in the Western Pacific which I have quoted below. Normally I would leave reporting of ship deployments to other sites, but, I don’t think this is routine.

We have sent cutters into the Western Pacific (since Vietnam). Munro (WMSL-755) visited Fiji and the Solomon Islands in 2018 (Paying More Attention to the Western Pacific, Dec. 8, 2018). Waesche made the trip back in 2012 (Waesche Enroute to SE Asia Apr. 4, 2012).There could have been others, but I don’t think there were a lot more, but coming on the heels of Munro’s deployment this may be a trend.

There is also a video here. The Captain tells the crew, “We’re going to be doing a national security mission. When we get underway, we are going to be working for the United States Indo-Pacific Command, Combatant Commander. We’re going to be executing national security operation throughout the Pacific.”

What is the mission? Certainly they will be doing some capacity building, exercising with partner navies and coast guards. They will probably do some fisheries enforcement both, in the US EEZ and with shipriders to assist in the EEZs of friendly nations, certainly in Oceana and perhaps in SE Asia. We have a huge expanded Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument wit  490,000 square statute miles or about 390,000 square nautical miles of Ocean to police (Huge New Marine Reserve, Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, Sep. 26, 2014). Plus there are the island nations of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau joined with the U.S. in “Compacts of Free Association.”

There have been calls for more US Coast Guard presence in the Pacific from New Zealand and from the 7th Fleet. Some, including the previous Commandant see the US Coast Guard as a counter weight to China Coast Guard in the South China Sea.

Maybe Bertholf will stop in at Guam and check it out as a possible future base for Offshore Patrol Cutters. We already have indication three Webber class FRCs will replace the two 110s currently there.) Will they operate in the South China Sea? Will they do Freedom of Navigation Ops? Taking Vietnamese ship riders aboard and doing fisheries enforcement in the Vietnam EEZ inside the Chinese claimed Nine Dash Line, could get exciting. Guess we will have to wait and see.

Will they have a UAS aboard? And If we have no budget or continuing resolution to pay our people, how are we paying for fuel?

The News Release

On a gray and foggy morning, tears intermingled with rain as family members braved the elements to say goodbye to the 170 crewmembers of Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL-750), a 418-foot national security cutter, which departed Alameda, California, Sunday for a patrol in the Western Pacific Ocean.

The U.S. Coast Guard has an enduring role in the Indo-Pacific going back over 150 years. The service’s ongoing deployment of resources to the region directly supports U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives in the Indo-Pacific Strategy and the National Security Strategy.

“The United States is a Pacific nation,” said Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, commander Coast Guard Pacific Area, who was present to see the cutter depart. “We have deep and long-standing ties with our partners in the region, and more importantly, we share a strong commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, governed by a rules-based international system that promotes peace, security, prosperity and sovereignty of all nations.”

Bertholf will be operating in support of United States Indo-Pacific Command, which oversees military operations in the region. As part of its planned operations, the cutter will engage in professional exchanges and capacity building with partner nations.

“Security abroad equals security at home,” said Fagan. “Enhancing our partners’ capabilities is a force multiplier in combating transnational criminal and terrorist organizations and deterring our adversaries.”

As both a federal law enforcement agency and an armed force, the Coast Guard is uniquely positioned to conduct defense operations in support of Combatant Commanders on all seven continents. The service routinely provides forces in joint military operations worldwide, including the deployment of cutters, boats, aircraft and deployable specialized forces.

“I’m excited to see Bertholf sail today to the Indo-Pacific region of operations,” said Fagan, who described the cutter as one of the most capable in the Coast Guard fleet.

“They will be serving alongside other DoD military forces, particularly the U.S. Navy, and I know they will contribute key capabilities to that mission set. This crew has worked incredibly hard to get ready for today’s sailing, and I can’t think of a better ship and crew to be sending to the Indo-Pacific.”

Commissioned in 2008, Bertholf is the first of the Coast Guard’s legend class national security cutters. These advanced ships are 418-feet long, 54-feet wide, and have a 4,600 long-ton displacement. They have a top speed in excess of 28 knots, a range of 12,000 nautical miles, endurance of up to 90 days and can hold a crew of up to 170.

The cutter is named for Coast Guard legend Ellsworth P. Bertholf, who served as captain of the Revenue Cutter Bear during the famous Overland Relief Expedition, earning the Congressional Gold Medal. As the Coast Guard’s fourth commandant, Bertholf oversaw the transfer of the Coast Guard into the Department of the Navy during World War I and advocated for the successful postwar reconstitution of the service.

National security cutters feature advanced command and control capabilities, aviation support facilities, stern cutter boat launch and increased endurance for long-range patrols to disrupt threats to national security further offshore.

The Coast Guard is scheduled to commission its seventh national security cutter, the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball, in 2019. Kimball, along with the Midgett, which is currently under construction, will be homeported in Honolulu and will enhance the Coast Guard’s presence throughout the Indo-Pacific.

“The U.S. Coast Guard’s unique authorities, capabilities, and missions make us the maritime safety and security partner of choice for sea-going countries around the world,” said Capt. John Driscoll, Bertholf’s commanding officer. “Our increased presence throughout the Indo-Pacific will enhance regional stability and improve maritime governance and security.”

In an address to the families and crew before the cutter set sail, Driscoll emphasized how critical family support is to crew wellbeing and readiness.

“Support from our families, wherever they live, is vital to ensuring we are ready to sail and answer the demands of our nation,” Driscoll said. “We must ensure our families are ready to weather the storm at home. We operate in a dangerous and high-consequence environment, and your ability to focus on mission can become easily compromised if you are worried about family.”

Fagan acknowledged the current lapse in appropriations and government shutdown has added stress and feelings of uncertainty to the typical emotions that surround a cutter departure.

“I know it is hard for these crews to be leaving behind their dependents and spouses – it’s a thousand times more so when everyone is wondering when our next paycheck will be, and how they can support the family they are leaving behind,” Fagan said.

“There has been an incredible outpouring of support for the families here in the Alameda area, but the tension and the anxiety for the crew is real,” said Fagan. “We are standing by to help support those families who are left behind the same way that we are going to support the crew as they sail for the Western Pacific.”

Paying More Attention to the Western Pacific

Fijian navy Sub-Lt. Opeti Enesi looks out from an Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules over the Fijian Islands, Dec. 8, 2018. The Hercules aircrew was providing support for a Fijian navy patrol boat during law enforcement operations. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West/Released)

Was pleasantly surprised to see that the Coast Guard seems to be paying more attention to the Western Pacific, where the US has a huge part of its Exclusive Economic Zone. (More than the entire Atlantic and Gulf coasts.) Additionally it is an area where Illegal Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing threatens to destabilize local economies, and where our frenemy China is attempting a neo-colonialism that could turn smaller Pacific nations into vassal states.

The cutter Munro visited Fiji and the Solomon Islands on its first operational patrol. A shiprider agreement was concluded on Nov. 12 during the visit to Suva, Fiji, and a Fijian naval officer flew aboard a Barber’s Point C-130 coordinating operations with a Fijian patrol boat.

This is after the USCGC Oliver F. Berry (WPC-1124) completed a mission to conduct operations in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, 2,200 miles from her homeport over the last summer.

SOUTHCOM Mothership?

HOS Mystique, 250 foot Multi-Purpose Support Vessel being chartered by the Navy for SOUTHCOM

Marine Link is reporting that the Navy has awarded a $7.4M charter to Hornbeck Offshore with the work expected to be completed 14 June 2019.

“The DOD says the multi-mission support vessel will be chartered to provide proof of concept for a single vessel to meet various training, exercise, experimentation, and operational mission support requirements.”

I am going to speculate that the intent is to support the operation of Cyclone class patrol craft in the Eastern Pacific transit zone. Perhaps Webber class WPCs as well?

Cyclone-class patrol coastal USS Zephyr (PC 8) crew conducts ship-to-ship firefighting to extinguish a fire aboard a low-profile go-fast vessel suspected of smuggling in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean April 7, 2018. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney

New OPVs for France, Trinidad and Tobago, the Philippines, and India

Four new Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) projects, totaling 20 vessels, have been reported.

NavyRecognition reports the French Navy has issued a Request for Information preparatory to procurement of six OPVs to operate from French overseas territories. They are seeking 22 knot vessels about 70 meters (230 feet) in length with facilities to support a vertical take off and landing (VTOL) unmanned air system (UAS). Given France’s recent history with OPVs these may look a lot like Offshore Supply Vessels.

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

Australian Shipbuilder Austal has been contracted to build two Cape Class OPVs (illustrated above) for the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard. These are 58 meter (190 foot) 25 knot vessels with a 4,000 mile range. Ten have already been built for the Australian Navy and Border Force.

It appears Austal’s yard in the Philippines may be building six 80 meter OPVs for the Philippine Navy. These would reportedly be based on the Cape Class Patrol Vessels, but would be much larger, have steel hulls, and helicopter support facilities (helo deck certainly, but not clear if that would include a hangar).

Indian Navy Photo: INS Saryu, the lead ship of her class of advanced offshore patrol vessels of the Indian Navy

India is planning to procure six “New Generation Offshore Patrol Vessels.” It sounds like these will evolve from the Saryu Class OPV which are 2,230 tons displacement, 344 feet in length, 42 foot of beam, with a 12 foot draft with a speed of 25 knots. The Saryus are armed with a 76mm Oto Melara gun and two Soviet designed AK-630, 30mm six barrel Gatling guns (just forward of the funnels in the photo). They also have a hangar and flight deck for a HAL Dhruv medium weight helicopter. The new ships should be at least equal in capability.

 

The Webber class WMECs

Since the Coast Guard chose to base six Webber class in each of three different ports (18 total in Miami, Key West, and San Juan), it has seemed apparent that the Webber class were more than “fast response cutters,” sitting in port waiting for an alarm to ring sending them rushing off to a SAR case. It seemed likely these little ships, more than twice as large as the Island class 110 foot WPBs, would be used for offshore patrols much like an MEC.

This is perhaps colored by my recollection of WMECs (and even WHECs) that had no helicopter facilities. There were at one time 165, 143, and even 125 foot WMECs.

Coast Guard Compass brings us confirmation of the offshore capability of these vessels. USCGC Oliver F. Berry (WPC-1124) has completed a mission to conduct operations in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, 2,200 miles from her homeport. She conducted fisheries enforcement and capacity building, and laid the foundations for future missions to the Central Pacific.

Coast Guard cutter crews visit and work in the exclusive economic zone of partner nations throughout the year to help exercise bilateral agreements protecting sovereignty and resources in the Pacific. The ability of the FRCs to patrol this region increases the number of Coast Guard assets capable of operating in the area. About 66 percent of the world’s tuna comes from the Western and Central Pacific according to the National Fisheries Institute and fisheries are the primary economic driver in the Pacific, especially for small Pacific Island Nations. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing results in losses of more than an estimated 21 to 46 percent of catch representing a $1.5 billion revenue loss in the region according to the Marine Resource Assessment Group. This loss can have a direct effect on peace, governance and a continued American presence as transnational crime may supplant traditional fishing to fill voids created by economic declines. This threat is why a robust multilateral enforcement presence is crucial.

This is an area that has been seldom patrolled in the past. China is interested in replacing American influence with their own. It is an area we should not ignore. (see also)

Republic of the Marshall Island. Illustration by TUBS from Wikipedia

Beyond our obligation to other Pacific Island nations, 29.3% of the US EEZ is around Pacific islands beyond Alaska and Hawaii,  including the Pacific Remote Islands Marine Monument which is larger than the entire Atlantic coast EEZ.

The eight day transit to and from the Marshall Islands was facilitated by USCGC Walnut (WLB-205) which transferred 8,000 gallons of fuel during two underway replenishments.

CCGD14 was in deed thinking outside the box, but maybe it will lead to other things. Webber class are already doing drug enforcement missions far South into the Caribbean. It appears, with a little support from larger vessels, the 18 District Seven Webber class ought to be able to continuously provide three FRCs in the Eastern Pacific.

Incidentally I am not suggesting a designation change. The WPC designation for the Webber class is the only one we have done since the start of the “Deepwater” program that makes any sense