Continuing Coast Guard commitment in the Indo-Pacific Region, Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday joined the U.S. Delegation lead by Chargé d’ Affaires Heather Coble who met in Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), for a bilateral meeting with the Honorable Secretary Lorin Robert, FSM Department of Foreign Affairs and the FSM delegation prior to the 75th commemoration of Operation Hailstone Monday.
“The U.S. Coast Guard operates closely with the Federated States of Micronesia to conduct maritime search and rescue, ensure the safety and security of ports for vital maritime commerce, and counter illegal fishing in the FSM Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that threatens its resource and national security,” said Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday, Commander, Coast Guard 14th District. “We continue to advance our close working relationship and alliance with FSM, Palau, and the Marshall Islands under the Compact of Free Association (COFA) with the U.S. Together, we share common values and an alliance to ensure a rules-based order across Oceania that is vital to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Following the bilateral meeting, both delegations participated in commemoration ceremonies culminated with a wreath-laying in the Chuuk Lagoon.
The U.S. Delegation also visited the Chuuk State seaport and Chuuk Public Utility Corporation Power Plant. Kembo Mida, General Manager, briefed the delegation on the success of the power plant and ongoing challenges to Chuuk’s water supply during the current drought. The wastewater treatment plant was overhauled recently with funds provided through the COFA.
“The Department of the Interior has a long and cherished history with the Federated States of Micronesia,” said Doug Domenech, Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior insular and international affairs. “Through our relationship under the Compact of Free Association, together we have improved and built schools, hospitals, utilities, and other projects throughout the FSM that directly benefit the people of the FSM. We are proud of that legacy. We continue to collaborate as partners in the U.S.-FSM Joint Economic Management Committee and will continue to carefully consider future needs as we jointly manage the Compact Trust Fund together.”
The Coast Guard is continuing to partner with FSM, Palau, and the Marshall Islands to build search and rescue capacity through training, mutual exchange, and joint fisheries enforcement patrols. This effort includes command center search and rescue courses in Guam including the FSM National Police as well as the orange boat program, painting the interior of skiffs orange to be more easily seen from the sky during searches, leading to a resolution on cases when such craft are beset by weather or suffer mechanical issues.
These consistent efforts led to resource support and delivery of supplies following Typhoons Mangkhut and Yutu in the Fall of 2018, the joint rescue of three FSM fishermen one year ago, and the aid rendered to responders, passengers and crew of Air Niugini flight PX56 following its crash landing in Chuuk Sept. 28.
The Coast Guard and FSM are also pursuing bilateral operations with shipriders aboard Coast Guard ships to counter illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in FSM EEZ to improve resource security and regional stability. This relationship was most recently highlighted in September when the crew of the USCGC Sequoia (WLB 215) conducted joint fisheries patrols in the FSM EEZ and on the high seas with the FSM shipriders and Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
More than half of the world’s tuna comes from the Western and Central Pacific according to the National Fisheries Institute, and fisheries are the primary economic driver in the Pacific, especially for small Pacific Island Nations. IUU fishing results in losses of more than an estimated 21 to 46 percent of catch representing a $1.5 billion revenue loss in the region according to the Marine Resource Assessment Group. This loss directly impacts regional stability, governance and increases the risk for other transnational crime from supplanted traditional fishing voids created by economic declines. This threat is why a robust multilateral enforcement presence is crucial.
The commemoration of Operation Hailstone pays homage to those who gave their lives promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific 75 years ago. The operation took place 17 to18 Feb. 1944 and was a massive U.S. Navy air and surface attack on a concentration of the Japanese Fleet in Chuuk Lagoon. The result was a victory over the Japanese forces preventing the reinforcement of the Eniwetok garrison. This effort saw the destruction of cruisers, destroyers, auxiliary merchant ships, aircraft and a total loss of more than 4,500 FSM, Japanese and American lives. The bombardment of Operation Hailstone played an essential part in changing the tide during the World War II battle in the Pacific. Numerous wrecks remain from that decisive battle and are part of the world-renowned wreck-diving site in Chuuk, formerly known as Truk Lagoon. While Operation Hailstone was taking place, Coast Guard forces were participating in the simultaneous invasion of Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands to the east as part of the larger Pacific Campaign.