U.S. Coast Guard Targets Illegal Fishing in International Waters

Coast Guard boarding team approaches the Chinese-flagged fishing vessel Lurong Yuan Yu 899 and the Russian transshipment vessel Pamyat in the North Pacific, July 15 (USCG)

Published Sep 6, 2019 7:35 PM by The Maritime Executive

The crew of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mellon, including two Canadian fishery officers, returned to Seattle on Sunday after an 80-day patrol detecting and deterring illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activity in the Pacific Ocean. The patrol was performed under the auspices of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and the North Pacific Fisheries Commission.

Economists estimate that IUU fishing costs the international economy billions of dollars per year. By diminishing stocks, it undermines the livelihoods of legitimate fishermen around the world, with negative effects on food security in developing nations. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, combatting global IUU fishing through international partnerships is a priority for Canada and the United States.

“IUU fishing is one of the greatest threats to the ocean’s fish stocks,” said Capt. Jonathan Musman, Mellon’s commanding officer. “It was an honor to be on the front lines of enforcement efforts of the distant waters fishing fleets.”

Boat crew from the cutter Mellon approaches a vessel for a boarding and inspection, North Pacific, August 13 (USCG)

The Mellon covered 19,000 miles during the patrol, and Coast Guard and Canadian fishery officers boarded 45 vessels flagged in Japan, Russia, South Korea, China and Panama. They encountered violations ranging from improper gear to intentionally fishing for sharks without a license. Boarding officers also found evidence of illegal shark finning. Altogether, the teams detected 68 potential violations.

This is the second joint operation between the U.S. Coast Guard and Canada's Fisheries and Oceans program this year. Along with the two fishery officers aboard the Mellon, Canada also provided fishery officers aboard a Dash-8 maritime surveillance aircraft operated by PAL Aerospace. The aircrew performed multiple missions over the North Pacific and Bering Sea using state-of-the-art radar and maritime surveillance tools. Canada shared the data from these flights with U.S. Coast Guard counterparts to support the Mellon’s patrol mission.

“Canada is serious about ending illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” said the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. “By preventing fish and seafood products derived from IUU fishing from entering our ports, we will not only help level the playing field for Canadian harvesters and Canadian businesses involved in the fish and seafood trade: we are also sending a very strong message that Canada’s ports have zero tolerance for illegally caught fish.”