Coast Guard and Navy team up to Fight for Fish

By Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael De Nyse

In battle, on the high seas and along America’s shoreline, the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy have a long tradition of working hand-in-hand on common missions, such as law enforcement, national defense, and search and rescue.

This cooperation was enhanced recently when the two sea services joined forces in June on one of the Coast Guard’s oldest missions, the protection of the nation’s natural resources.

On June 15, law enforcement officers from the 14th Coast Guard District — headquartered in Honolulu — joined the crew of USS Crommelin (FFG 37) to support U.S. Coast Guard fisheries enforcement in Oceania. The Crommelin was on a routine deployment in the Western Pacific at the time.

Their “fight for fish” mission and the improvement of a persistent presence with respect to fisheries enforcement were the main objectives of the operation.

The mission, which wrapped up June 26, was the first time the two services had worked together this closely to protect marine resources.

“Crommelin marks the first of what may become many Navy assets to transit the Western Pacific enforcing fishing regulations in a joint effort with the Coast Guard to stop illegal fishing in this region,” said Cmdr. Kevin Parker, the Crommelin’s commanding officer. “This is a very exciting time.”

The deployed Coast Guardsmen combined their expertise with the Navy to monitor and deter illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing during the Pacific transit.

“From the very moment this mission began, the Coast Guard increased its relations with the Navy,” said Lt. Nick Anderson, Coast Guard intelligence liaison aboard Crommelin for the patrol. “Through this joint mission we were able to learn more about each other’s capability, so in the future we can use both services’ strengths to forge a stronger relationship and greater enforcement presence throughout the Western Pacific.”

Together, Navy sailors and Coast Guardsmen documented suspicious activity in the region. The team photographed and recorded vessel positions and contacted suspect vessels’ captains over the radio.

“Pictures and detailed documentation are essential for any law enforcement case package,” Anderson said. “If we happen to catch a vessel conducting illegal operations, the pictures and information we record could be the difference between that vessel receiving a fine or being sent away unpunished and able to continue illegal activities.”

The Coast Guard is the lead federal agency with the maritime infrastructure, capability and authority to project a federal law enforcement presence into the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and upon the high seas.

The EEZ is an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea that generally extends out to 200 nautical miles from the shore. Within the EEZ, a coastal state has certain sovereign rights over the exploration, exploitation, and conservation of natural resources

A nation’s EEZ, and the ecosystems within them, are vital to the country’s economic health. The protection of America’s EEZs fall under the U.S. Coast Guard mission areas of maritime security and protection of natural resources.

Both services have shared goals of protecting the fragile ecosystems in the waters of Oceania as well as enforcing maritime laws throughout mutual areas of responsibility.

“This mission increased our overall regional awareness of the maritime domain and further enhanced the Coast Guard’s interoperability with the Navy as well as with the law enforcement assets and personnel from our regional partners,” said Cmdr. Mark Young, chief of enforcement for the 14th Coast Guard District.

“The Coast Guard, Navy and international and domestic law enforcement partners are greatly concerned with protecting 3.4 million square miles of EEZ in Oceania and are committed to ending illegal fishing, in Oceania,” said Young.

One of the main goals of this operation was to infuse what both services learned during this building-block mission and to apply these lessons learned to possible future joint operations.

“If the U.S. is to enjoy a rich, diverse and sustainable ocean environment, then the Coast Guard must assist in halting degradation of our ocean’s natural resources associated with the destructive practices of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities,” said Young.

“This mission is just the building block we needed to further craft our integration and interoperability with the Navy and our regional partners for future joint operations. This operation showcased the Coast Guard’s resolve to establish partnerships of common interest in the region needed to counter emerging threats. These partnerships are critical for the effective enforcement of those conservation and management measures developed to ensure the long term sustainability of the highly valuable fish stocks in the region.”

Young also said that the Coast Guard gained a lot from this mission. With more than 1.5 million square miles of U.S. EEZ in which to enforce fisheries regulations, joint operations such as these are essential. These joint operations serve as a force multiplier and help maintain a persistent presence within the Pacific maritime domain.

“As maritime services, the Navy and Coast Guard share many similar goals. We have many missions that we rely on each other to complete. This patrol represents the beginning of a long tradition of cooperation by the U.S. maritime forces under a new unified strategy,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jay Caputo, Coast Guard fisheries enforcement officer. “Together, we can protect America’s sovereignty and put an end to illegal fishing in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. This will help to stabilize the future of small island nations in Oceania during a time of economic turmoil. These efforts will then enable a climate of nation building which will fight off opportunities for piracy, terrorism or transnational crimes which have occurred in other parts of the world. Finally, it will protect the tuna stocks and provide a renewable source of food for our children and many generations to come.”

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