HONOLULU, Hawaii — Two U.S. Coast Guard cutters crews and a long range HC-130 patrol aircraft crew recently completed combined operations with shipriders from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) as part of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Operation Rai Balang 2019 to combat illegal fishing across Oceania.
For three weeks, U.S. Coast Guard cutters Sequoia (WLB 215) and Kiska (WPB 1336) embarked FSM law enforcement officers as shipriders to patrol the FSM Exclusive Economic Zone and on the high seas, supported by the HC-130 patrol aircraft crew. In addition to the U.S. Coast Guard and FSM combined operations, Operation Rai Balang also involved ships and aircraft deployed by the remaining Pacific Quadrilateral Defense Partners—Australia, New Zealand, and France—in support of other Pacific island countries across Oceania.
Illegal, unregulated, and underreported (IUU) fishing threatens resource security and sovereignty. Enforcing international fishing regulations on the high seas and helping Pacific island countries protect their waters from IUU fishing promotes maritime governance and reinforces a rules-based international order that is essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific.
“The U.S. Coast Guard and our Pacific Quadrilateral Defense Partners have two decades of experience working together with Pacific island countries to help ensure resource security and the viability of tuna stocks in the Pacific. Working with experts from these nations and regional leaders like the Federated States of Micronesia is vital to ensuring food security and the rule of law in Oceania. Working together we are helping to sustain and increase a secure, free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Capt. Riley Gatewood, chief of enforcement for U.S. Coast Guard 14th District.
It is estimated that IUU fishing accounts for about 30 percent of all fishing activity worldwide, representing up to 26 million tons of fish illegally harvested each year, valued at between $10 to $23 billion.
“IUU fishing can act as a nexus for economic, social and political instability or unwanted influence of countries looking to gain a foothold in the region — all having direct economic and security implications for the United States if not effectively controlled,” said Lt. Cmdr. Conor Sullivan, fisheries enforcement Coast Guard 14th District.
The U.S. bilateral shiprider arrangement with FSM is only one of eleven such agreements across Oceania. The U.S. Coast Guard regularly conducts bilateral fisheries law enforcement operations with these Pacific Island Countries, often as part of planned FFA operations across the region.