Palau and USCG Bust Chinese Vessel for Illegal Fishing

myrtle hazard
Myrtle Hazard at Guam, September 2020 (USCG file image)

Published Dec 24, 2020 1:35 PM by The Maritime Executive

On December 10, the Palau Division of Marine Law Enforcement worked with the U.S. Coast Guard to apprehend a suspected illegal fishing vessel off Helen Reef - the latest example of the Coast Guard's role in supporting the rule of law in the Western Pacific. 

On December 9, Palau officials near Helen Reef reported an 80-foot Chinese vessel fishing illegally. Working with the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Global Defense Reform Program contractor at Palau's Maritime Law Center, the crew of the patrol boat Remeliik II was dispatched from Koror to apprehend the vessel. The U.S. Coast Guard dispatched an HC-130 Hercules search plane out of Hawaii's Air Station Barbers Point and the Coast Guard Cutter Myrtle Hazard out of Guam to support the mission.

The mission was the first conducted by the Remeliik II, a new patrol boat supplied to Palau under Australia's Pacific Maritime Security Program. Myrtle Hazard joined Remeliik II and conducted the vessel boarding. The fishing vessel and its 28 crew members were brought back to Koror and are at anchor while the investigation continues. 

The boat had about 500 pounds of sea cucumber on board, and the crew is suspected of harvesting it illegally in Palau's waters. Sea cucumber fetches up to $1,700 per pound in some Asian markets.

"Our bilateral agreements with Palau and other island nations are proving highly impactful," said Cmdr. Jason Brand, the Coast Guard Fourteenth District Chief of Enforcement. "If IUU fishing continues unchecked, we can expect a deterioration of fragile coastal States, collapse of critical fish stock populations and increased tension among foreign-fishing nations, threatening geopolitical stability around the world." 

Fisheries enforcement is part of the Coast Guard's role in supporting the rule of law in the Western Pacific - one element of U.S. maritime services' strategy to counter Chinese efforts to undermine the rules-based order at sea. "It is more important than ever that the international community stands together for the rule of law and insists on better environmental stewardship from Beijing," said U.S. Ambassador to Palau John Hennessey-Niland.

"The Coast Guard believes in a rules-based approach to maritime governance," said Rear Admiral Matthew Sibley, Commander, Fourteenth Coast Guard District. "The U.S. needs a broad network of partners to eradicate this threat to our collective prosperity. Together, we can spotlight bad actors and root out this illicit behavior."