On patrol with Waesche: Boardings & shark fins

Coast Guard Cutter Waesche – the second of eight planned national security cutters – had a successful inaugural patrol, and after an in-port period is back at it again. Waesche’s crew is currently on an Asia-Pacific patrol and is once again demonstrating the national security cutter’s ability to uphold the Coast Guard’s centuries-old tradition of safeguarding our nation. Compass looks forward to bringing you updates from the men and women aboard Waesche with the series, “On patrol with Waesche.” Check out the latest installment below, as we get a glimpse of Waesche’s 14th Coast Guard District fisheries patrol.

Crewmembers remove the tie-downs for an MH-65D Dolphin helicopter aboard Coast Guard Cutter Waesche. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony L. Soto.

Crewmembers remove the tie-downs for an MH-65D Dolphin helicopter aboard Coast Guard Cutter Waesche. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony L. Soto.

Written by Lt. j.g. Melissa Martinelli and Ensign Meghan Zehringer.

Those standing along the banks near the Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Honolulu in early April saw a fairly common sight as Coast Guard Cutter Waesche’s crew manned the rails to render honors to the USS Arizona Memorial. To those on shore it is a common occurrence, but for those clad in Coast Guard blue, it signified the beginning of their first-ever fisheries law enforcement patrol.

Crewmembers aboard Coast Guard Cutter Waesche prepare to moor at a pier near Utulei Beach Park in American Samoa. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony L. Soto.

Crewmembers aboard Coast Guard Cutter Waesche prepare to moor at a pier near Utulei Beach Park in American Samoa. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony L. Soto.

Waesche crossed into international waters and sailed to the Pacific Islands for their month-long patrol, testing Waesche’s command and control capabilities in detecting and tracking various fishing vessels.

The national security cutter’s enhanced capabilities allows Waesche’s crew to extend living marine resources patrols past the traditional range of operations for patrol boats, the type of asset normally enforcing fisheries laws closer to shore. An aircrew from Air Station North Bend, Ore., was deployed aboard Waesche, further enabling the national security cutter’s mission capability.

In just a few weeks, numerous fishing vessels were boarded by Waesche and were cited for violations ranging from minor administrative discrepancies to more serious violations such as shark finning. Shark finning refers to the practice of removing a shark’s fins and then discarding the remainder of the shark back to sea. The sharks are often still alive and unable to swim without their fin, slowly sink to the bottom of the sea.

With the growing demand for some shark species and shark products, there has been increased international fishing effort directed at sharks, resulting in overfishing. While regulations have been passed to prevent this, shark finning still occurs. As a result many shark species have become vulnerable, threatened or endangered.

Shark fins aboard a fishing vessel during one of Coast Guard Cutter Waesche's boardings. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Shark fins aboard a fishing vessel during one of Coast Guard Cutter Waesche’s boardings. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Along with protecting certain species, fisheries patrols also safeguard the fishing industry itself. Hawaii’s commercial and recreational fisheries industry represents millions in revenue, so protecting these resources is important for the region’s economic prosperity. Waesche’s fisheries patrol prevents disasters from unseaworthy vessels, ensures a level playing field for those who make their living on the sea and protects the viability of the fishery itself.

Throughout the boardings, Waesche was joined by international partners who further enhanced the national security cutter’s ability to protect natural resources. Amongst those aboard Waesche was an officer from the New Zealand navy, a shiprider from the Cook Islands and two customs officials from Australia. Each of these partners provided Waesche with a unique look into how other countries operate their maritime forces.

A shark after its fin was removed. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

A shark after its fin was removed. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

While patrolling throughout the Pacific, Waesche also built partnerships with various communities in the Pacific Islands. When Waeche pulled into Pago Pago, American Samoa, for supply replenishment and fuel, crewmembers had the opportunity to represent U.S. Armed Forces in a parade celebrating Flag Day, a national holiday in American Samoa.

Having successfully completed the service’s mission to uphold safety and security on the high seas, Waesche will move from the 14th District area of responsibility to working with our Department of Defense counterparts under the Navy for the next few months. This officially marks the end of an eventful first fisheries patrol and the beginning of another chapter for Waesche. We look forward to standing a taut watch and will share our missions as they unfold.

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  • TopSullivan

    Good job Coast Guard

  • Sailinnervoice

    I’m so glad I subscribed to the Coast Guard Compass.  You guys and gals are involved in so many different  and important activities that it boggles the mind!  Thanks for your dedication to your far-flung responsibilities.  You make us all proud!

  • baby docs

    We still miss you, Daddy.
    Kiss the fishies for us,
    Love D & D

  • Sailorchicky

    Have a great trip guys. I miss you already..