Coast Guard crews completed Operation Aiga, a 46-day patrol in support of the Samoan government maritime law enforcement efforts by providing patrol coverage in the Samoan and American Samoan exclusive economic zones.
The crews from the Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry (WPC 1124) and Juniper (WLB 201) deployed from Hawaii to Samoa to provide operational presence and conduct bilateral shiprider operations with the Government of Samoa, in coordination with New Zealand and Australia to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing and promote Samoan resource security and maritime governance in Oceania.
In the U.S. alone, the fishing industry employs about 1.3 million people and contributes $199 billion per year to the U.S. economy, according to a NOAA economic report. Combating IUU fishing is part of promoting maritime governance and a rules based international order that is essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific.
“Fish stocks are a global food source and provide economic stability for many countries in the Pacific,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jason Holstead, the District 14 living marine resource officer. “Depleted fish stocks due to IUU could contribute to the destabilization of the region and leave small nations vulnerable to dangerous transnational organized crime networks.”
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry traveled 8,169 nautical miles while patrolling the EEZ of American Samoa and Samoa during their deployment. The Juniper crew serviced vital aids to navigation in Pago Pago Harbor and in neighboring islands during their 10,000 nautical-mile patrol in support of Operation Aiga.
“While in the South Pacific, we patrolled the Samoan and American Samoan EEZs for a total of 380 hours,” said Lt. Micah Howell, the Oliver Berry’s commanding officer. “Using Pago Pago, American Samoa as a forward operating base between patrol periods, we maintained a strategic presence in the region, reported fishing vessel activity, and cited multiple violations under the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s conservation management measures while still continuing domestic enforcement action of U.S. flagged fishing vessels.”
Coast Guard crews also conducted operations in and around American Samoa to enforce U.S. federal laws and regulations and maintain aids to navigation.
“During the patrol, we serviced 12 aids that directly support safe navigation and the flow of commerce in the territory’s primary waterways,” said Lt. j.g. Ryan Burk, the Juniper’s operations officer. “We collaborated with local stakeholders to complete a waterway analysis and management system (WAMS) survey of the waterways which is the first WAMS completed for American Samoa since 2003 allowing the Coast Guard to assess and improve the safety and efficiency of the territory’s waterways.”
‘Aiga,’ the Samoan word for family, represents the bond between the United States and the rich Samoan culture with the common values that are shared.