Interdiction on the high seas
Posted by LT Katie Braynard, Thursday, June 12, 2014
Large-scale drift net fishing on the high seas is not only illegal, it also poses a significant threat to ocean ecosystems. Together with international partners, Coast Guard cutters routinely participate in efforts to detect and deter these activities.
One such cutter is Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau, who recently transferred custody of the fishing vessel Yin Yuan, a 191-foot fishing vessel seized 625 miles east of Tokyo, Japan, for large-scale high seas drift net fishing to the China Coast Guard vessel 2102.
While operating under the command of the 17th Coast Guard District, a Canadian maritime patrol aircraft with a Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans Enforcement official aboard spotted Yin Yuan on the high seas of the North Pacific Ocean.
The Yin Yuan displayed characteristics of large-scale high seas drift net fishing to include: net tube, net spreader, net bin, nets and net buoys on deck, and the sighting information was passed to the crew of the Morgenthau. The Morgenthau’s crew was patrolling in support of Operation North Pacific Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard’s component of a multi-lateral fisheries law enforcement operation designed to detect and deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activity, including large-scale drift-net fishing on the high seas. The crew of the Morgenthau intercepted and boarded the vessel with two law enforcement officials from the China Coast Guard’s Fisheries Law Enforcement Command and interviewed the master after the vessel’s master made a claim of Chinese registry.
During an interview by the boarding team, the master of the vessel admitted to having 3.3 kilometers of nets on board and stated that he had thrown the drift nets and other equipment overboard prior to being intercepted by the Morgenthau.
The boarding team found approximately one-half ton of salmon onboard the Yin Yuan and identified three suspected serious fisheries violations including: use of prohibited fishing gear of more than 3.3 kilometers of high seas drift net; failure to maintain sufficient records of catch and catch-related data; and fishing without a license, permit or authorization issued by a sanctioned authority. Additionally, violations of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships were also documented.
High seas drift net fishing is a destructive fishing practice and a form of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing that indiscriminately kills massive amounts of fish and other marine life such as whales, sea-birds, sharks and turtles by means of enormous nets suspended for miles in open water. The practice is universally condemned and is a significant threat to ocean ecosystems and to the food and economic security of nations and communities that rely on fisheries resources.
The United States, Canada and China actively participate in international efforts to deter the practice of large-scale high seas drift net fishing as encouraged by a 1992 United Nations moratorium. Since 1994, the Coast Guard and NOAA Fisheries Service have annually hosted law enforcement officers from the China Fishery Law Enforcement Command aboard Coast Guard cutters patrolling in the North Pacific Ocean. The Coast Guard also participates in closely coordinated fisheries enforcement patrols with the member nations of the North Pacific Anadromous Fisheries Commission and North Pacific Coast Guard Forum.
As the only U.S. agency with the infrastructure and authority to project law enforcement presence throughout the 3.36 million square mile U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone and in key areas of the high seas, the Coast Guard is the lead U.S. agency for at-sea enforcement of living marine resource laws. This case reflects the value of having a multi-mission maritime service adequately equipped to protect critical marine resources.
“This seizure is a direct result of the teamwork between the Coast Guard and our Chinese, Japanese and Canadian law enforcement partners,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, commander of the 17th Coast Guard District. “Illegal, unreported and unregulated vessels are a scourge on our living marine resources that we are only able to stop through the application of our long range resources, such as high endurance and national security cutters and international cooperation.”
“Canada has committed 21 years to preventing and eliminating illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in the North Pacific,” said Larry Paike, director of Conservation and Protection in the Pacific Region. “Increased cooperation with our international partners over the years has helped us hone our skills and become even more effective. We are sincerely grateful for that support and the overall impact it has had on curbing illegal fishing to the benefit of our oceans.”