U.S. Coast Guard and FSM shipriders patrol the high seas against illegal fishing

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sequoia (WLB 215) small boat crew and boarding team pursue a fishing vessel in the Pacific Ocean, March 28, 2019. For three weeks Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircrews, the crews of Coast Guard cutters Sequoia and Kiska, and intelligence and enforcement specialists worked cooperatively to surveil and interrupt illegal fishing operations. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Released)

Hawaii – Illegal, unregulated, and under-reported fishing threatens the resource security of island nations.

To combat these illegal fishing activities, the U.S. Coast Guard recently completed combined operations with shipriders from the Federated States of Micronesia as part of the Forum Fisheries Agency’s Operation Rai Balang 2019.

According to a release from the U.S. Coast Guard, it is estimated that illegal fishing accounts for about 30 percent of all fishing activity worldwide. This represents up to 26 million tons of fish illegally harvested each year, valued between $10 billion to $23 billion.

Under Operation Rai Balang, U.S. Coast Guard cutters Sequoia and Kiska worked with FSM law enforcement officers for three weeks as shipriders to patrol the FSM Exclusive Economic Zone.

According to the coast guard, the U.S. bilateral shiprider arrangement with FSM is only one of eleven such agreements across the region.

In a release, FFA said Operation Rai Balang ended on 29 March, finding only six infringements.

“The infringements were in relation to five vessels not displaying country flags and one vessel with a fish species that was not in accordance with its licence. These infringements have been reported to member countries for further investigation,” FFA said.

Chief of Staff, Inspector Tauatea Teketia from Kiribati had the following to say about the Operation. “As the first Chief of Staff from Kiribati, it was a great honour to be able to come to the FFA and be part of such a successful operation.”

Teketia added, “The whole Operation was conducted in a very efficient manner where team work was maintained from the start to the end. Their great effort in carrying out their task in different fields was the key to make this Operation a success.”

According to  FFA, the twelve-day annual operation involved several FFA member nations, such as the FSM, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, PNG, Republic of Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, and the Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group (QUADs) – Australia, New Zealand, France and the United States.