HONOLULU — The Coast Guard and Navy completed a 33-day joint mission in the Central and South Pacific under the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative to combat transnational crimes, enforce fisheries laws and enhance regional security March 11.
A Coast Guard law enforcement detachment, from Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Team South embarked the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110) and conducted eight fisheries enforcement boardings with the assistance of the Navy’s Visit, Board, Search and Seizure team and enforcement shipriders from the Republic of Marshall Islands and Nauru.
Six of the boardings were conducted on the high seas under the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission guidelines. One alleged violation of the WCPFC conservation management measures was documented as a fishing vessel’s automatic location communicator, which is part of the vessel monitoring system, appeared to be disabled. The case was turned over to the flag state for further investigation. VMS allows authorities to monitor movement, location and compliance of commercial fishing vessels in the WCPFC convention area.
Partnership between the Coast Guard and Navy supports OMSI, a Secretary of Defense program to use Department of Defense assets transiting the pacific region to build maritime domain awareness, ultimately supporting the Coast Guard’s maritime law enforcement operations in Oceania.
“OMSI was a great opportunity to engage with pacific island nations and to continue building our relationships and partnerships in the region,” said Navy Cmdr. Walter C. Mainor, commanding officer, USS William P. Lawrence. “It was a privilege to be 3rd Fleet’s OMSI platform and operate forward in the region.”
Boarding teams inspected documentation and fish holds for illegal activity and compliance with conservation and management measures. Coast Guard teams and Pacific Island Nation shipriders routinely conduct joint boardings within the host country’s exclusive economic zones, to protect the ocean and the living marine resources within.
“Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing undermines efforts to conserve and manage global fish stocks,” explained Coast Guard Cmdr. Richard Howes, chief of enforcement, Coast Guard 14th District response division. “U.S. partnerships with Australia, New Zealand, France, and Pacific Island Nations deters illegal fishing and promotes economic and environmental stability in the region — this is the foundation for OMSI and promotes a healthy ocean today and for future generations.”
The Coast Guard is responsible for patrolling the waters around the numerous islands associated with the United States throughout the region. Each of these islands have territorial waters stretching out to 12 nautical miles from shore. Beyond that, stretching out to 200 nautical miles is an exclusive economic zone, an area defined by international law that allows each nation exclusive rights to the exploration and use of the marine resources within. Oceania contains 43 percent, or approximately 1.3 million square miles, of United States’ EEZs.