US Coast Guard beefs up effort to protect Pacific fisheries

by Bernadette Carreon | 26 June 2019 | News

US Coast Guard cutter Stratton sails in the Pacific (Photo: USCGC Stratton WMSL 752)

The United States Coast Guard will partner with Pacific countries and nations in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean to help them protect their fisheries, the commander of the Coast Guard Pacific Area said last week.

Vice-Admiral Linda Fagan said by teleconference call that curbing illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing was part of the work the US Coast Guard was conducting in the Pacific. 

The Coast Guard cutter Stratton was deployed this month. It will be in the Western Pacific for months, in support of the US Indo–Pacific Command, which oversees military operations in the region.

She says the engagement of the Stratton in the Pacific will be in line with Pacific priorities to beef up fisheries enforcement.

“All these programs and all this engagement really highlight our continued commitment to the region, and our belief in the strength and depth of partnerships and engagements for mutual benefit,” Vice-Admiral Fagan says. 

The US Coast Guard deployment is complemented by the bilateral shiprider agreements it has with Pacific nations, she says. (Shiprider agreements allow law enforcement officers of Pacific Island countries with an agreement to carry out their duty to stop illegal activity in their exclusive economic zone while “riding” a US Coast Guard ship. The agreements expand the island nation’s capacity to conduct enforcement.) 

“We have bilateral shiprider agreements with over 11 countries. We recently hosted the first-ever US–Pacific Islands fisheries law-enforcement symposium in Honolulu. We also participate in the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum, and under that forum, we do the North Pacific Guard, which is a specific regional fisheries enforcement activity,” Vice-Admiral Fagan says.

In the Western and Central Pacific, the US has shiprider agreements with the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, and Fiji. Agreements with Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands are also in the works.

“These bilaterals are examples of how we’ve got a ship and a platform, but not the authority to enforce the laws in another nation’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). But we bring an individual that’s got that authority and help them enforce their sovereignty in their EEZ,” she says.

Vice-Admiral Fagan says that, in May, the US Coast Guard, in partnership with Embassy Koror (the US embassy in Palau) and the US Department of the Interior, provided aids to navigation, and infrastructure improvements in the waters of Palau to support maritime safety and security. 

“The US is a Pacific nation, and the Coast Guard has been operating in the Pacific for over 150 years,” she says. 

“We have developed long-standing partnerships with nations in the region, and 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 the sovereignty of all nations.”

The US, Palau, Marshall Islands, and Micronesia made commitments to work together to fight IUU fishing at a historic meeting on 21 May. The presidents of the four nations – Mr Donald Trump of the US, Ms Hilda Heine of the Marshall Islands, Mr David Panuelo of FSM, and Mr Tommy Remengesay Jr of Palau – agreed that one of the region’s most pressing problems is IUU.