The crew of the Palau Division of Marine Law Enforcement patrol boat PSS President HI Remeliik II coordinated with the Coast Guard to apprehend a suspected illegal fishing vessel off Helen Reef, December 10th.
The U.S. Coast Guard dispatched resources that included an Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules search plane and the Coast Guard Cutter Myrtle Hazard, from Sector Guam, to support the Government of Palau to protect their sovereignty and natural resources. The law enforcement action by the crew of the Remeliik II represents the continued cooperation between the Republic of Palau, United States, Australia, Japan, and other partners to halt Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Pacific.
“Our bilateral agreements with Palau and other island nations are proving highly impactful,” said Cmdr. Jason Brand, the Coast Guard Fourteenth District Chief of Enforcement. “IUU fishing has replaced piracy as the leading global maritime security threat. If IUU fishing continues unchecked, we can expect a deterioration of fragile coastal States, collapse of critical fish stock populations and increased tension among foreign-fishing nations, threatening geopolitical stability around the world.”
U.S. Ambassador John Hennessey-Niland stated, “it is more important than ever that the international community stands together for the rule of law and insists on better environmental stewardship from Beijing.”
On December 9th, Palau Rangers near Helen Reef reported witnessing an 80-foot vessel illegally fishing nearby. In coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Global Defense Reform Program contractor assigned to Palau’s Maritime Law Center, the crew of the Remeliik II was dispatched from Koror to apprehend the vessel.
The 20-hour law enforcement mission was the first conducted by the Remeliik II, a new Guardian-class patrol boat as part of Australia’s Pacific Maritime Security Program. Myrtle Hazard joined Remeliik II and conducted a vessel boarding in accordance with bilateral agreements in place between Palau and the US.
“The Coast Guard continues to remain vigilant in monitoring and deterring Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing that takes place within our area of responsibility, to include bilateral agreements with foreign partners,” said Capt. Christopher Chase, Commander, Coast Guard Sector Guam. “Sector Guam’s strategic location and recent addition of the new fast response cutters Myrtle Hazard and Oliver Henry showcase the Coast Guard’s ability to react quickly if situations such as this arise.”
IUU fishing represents a threat to Pacific Island Countries and Territories’ efforts to ensure Pacific fish stocks within their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) remain viable sources of nutrition and revenue for generations to come.
“The Coast Guard believes in a rules-based approach to maritime governance,” said Rear Admiral Matthew Sibley, Commander, Fourteenth Coast Guard District. “The U.S. needs a broad network of partners to eradicate this threat to our collective prosperity. Together, we can spotlight bad actors and root out this illicit behavior.”
The fishing vessel and its 28 crew members were brought back to Koror and are at anchor while the investigation continues.
COVID-19 precautions have been implemented while the vessel remains in port.