Coast Guard supports international fisheries operation in Pacific

Coast Guard District 14 NewsBy Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony L. Soto

Crewmembers aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Kukui, a 225-foot Juniper-class buoy tender, stationed in Honolulu, recently participated in a significant regional operation to further enhance U.S. and international efforts to protect the ecologically and economically valuable fish stocks of the Pacific. The Kukui crew dedicated eight days to Operation Kurukuru 2011, an international, multi-agency operation orchestrated by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency.

The mission was to conduct maritime surveillance operations to detect, deter, and eliminate activities such as illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and other transnational crimes.

The operation was conducted in cooperation with Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. Navy.

A shiprider from the Cook Islands embarked Kukui to exercise the bilateral shiprider agreement signed by both countries. The enforcement officer’s presence aboard the vessel allowed the Kukui crew to patrol the Cook Islands’ Exclusive Economic Zone and assist in enforcing their laws and regulations. During their patrol, Kukui’s crew conducted eight boardings, of which, seven were found to be in compliance with Cook Island laws and regulations. One vessel had a discrepancy with their Vessel Monitoring System, which is a transmitter that provides visibility to the Forum Fisheries Agency and the sovereign nation of fishing activity in their EEZ. The vessel was subsequently directed to return to port to make necessary repairs.

In addition to Kukui’s patrol, an aircrew piloting an HC-130 Hercules airplane from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point supported the operation. The aircrew flew three seven-hour sorties during the operation over the EEZ’s of Tuvalu, Tokelau, Cook Islands patrolling for unknown vessels. In addition to the Hercules, numerous aircraft from Australia, New Zealand, and France also assisted in the operation.

“This patrol has been an outstanding opportunity to develop synergy between U.S. and international partners in the Pacific,” said Cmdr. Bob Little, commanding officer of the Kukui.

“In addition to looking after U.S. interests while patrolling our EEZ’s, we have assisted partner nations in patrolling their EEZs, and enhanced our ability to execute complex multinational maritime operations with our Pacific Island and Quadrilateral Defense partners. The more we conduct joint international operations the better we get at it, enhancing economic stability and security in the region.”

In addition to strengthening partnerships, Operation Kurukuru 2011 was a milestone in itself. This was the first-ever coordinated regional surveillance operation to include participation from all 17 Pacific Island members of the FFA and all four Quadrilateral Defense countries. Another highlight was the exercise of two Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreements between Micronesia, Palau, Cook Islands and Samoa resulting in cooperative surveillance operations within neighboring country’s EEZ’s.

Operation Kurukuru was the biggest maritime surveillance operation to date in the collective fight to protect the region’s fish stocks in a region which is home to eight U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones.

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