The Coast Guard and its partners successfully completed the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency’s (FFA) Operation Kurukuru in the Pacific, Friday.
Operation Kurukuru is an annual coordinated maritime surveillance operation with the goal of combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. This year the crews of the Coast Guard Cutter William Hart, Coast Guard Cutter Myrtle Hazard, and an Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules participated in the joint endeavor.
“The Operation included fifteen Guardian Class and Pacific Patrol Boats from Pacific nations operating alongside five Australian Navy, French Navy and United States Coast Guard vessels,” said Allan Rahari, the FFA Director Fisheries Operations. “Seven aircraft from the FFA, Quadrilateral and regional partners provided air surveillance, as well as satellite surveillance and use of other emerging technologies.”
This year’s Operation Kurukuru was conducted over the course of 12 days, involving 15 Pacific FFA member nations and Pacific Quadrilateral Defense Coordinating Group (Australia, France, New Zealand, and U.S.) partners while covering over 8,880,349 million square miles.
During the operation 300 vessels were remotely sensed by satellites or sighted by ships and aircraft while 78 vessels were boarded either at sea or in port. Of those 300 sightings the Coast Guard contributed 63.
While the operation was ongoing the Air Station Barbers Point Hercules aircrew also diverted to Starbuck Island in Kiribati to assist with an ongoing missing persons case.
Kurukuru is a Japanese term meaning round and round relating to the highly migratory nature of targeted species such as tuna which annually travel throughout the Pacific providing an important renewable resource for Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICT).
IUU undermines PICT efforts to conserve and manage fish stocks, presenting a dire threat to protecting these vital resources for generations to come.
“Combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing really is a team effort out here in the Pacific,” said Lt. j.g. Tyler Peterson, an operations planner at the Coast Guard 14th District. “Because of fish migratory habits they frequently travel between different countries’ exclusive economic zones (EEZ) so no one country can protect the fish stocks on their own. This is why joint efforts like Operation Kurukuru are so important. We are able to work with our partners towards our mutual goal of preserving this vital resource.”
Along with participating in large scale operations like Operation Kurukuru the Coast Guard also works individually with nations to counter IUU through the use of bilateral law enforcement agreements.
Bilateral law enforcement agreements allow partner PICTs to embark their law enforcement officers aboard Coast Guard vessels to enforce laws within their EEZ. The Coast Guard maintains 11 bilateral ship rider agreements throughout the Pacific combating not only IUU but also promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific.