Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Illegal Fishing in the proposed Monument

Last night, while munching on some grilled mahi mahi from Hawaii Bar & Grill, I saw the following story on KSPN 2:

The boats, all from Chinese Taipei, were fishing within the boundaries of the proposed Mariana Trench Marine National Monument. I wanted to know more, so I did a little bit of investigative research (i.e. I called Bob at KSPN and asked him for his source then did a Google search).

I found this story on KUAM and this press release from the US Coast Guard:

GUAM – Coast Guard Cutter Kukui returns to Apra Harbor today following a ten day fisheries enforcement patrol of the Guam / Northern Mariana Islands Exclusive Economic Zone. Working with a C-130 long-range patrol aircraft from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, Cutter Kukui interdicted one of three foreign fishing vessels sighted operating illegally inside the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) approximately 600 nautical miles north of Guam.

On 12 August, the C-130 identified three fishing vessels operating illegally inside the EEZ and relayed the position of the fishing vessels to Cutter Kukui. Cutter Kukui then set out to intercept the group. Arriving some 11-hours later, Kukui found the fishing vessels had fled the area. The C-130 relocated one of the fishing vessels the following day and Cutter Kukui again began pursuit, intercepting the vessel that night after a nearly 50 nautical mile chase.

As a result of this enforcement action, one of the foreign fishing vessels has been ordered to return to port and its fishing license will be suspended.

Coast Guard Cutter Kukui is a 225-foot Juniper class buoy tender whose home ported is Honolulu, HI; LCDR Steven Matadobra is the Commanding Officer of Cutter Kukui.
600 miles north of Guam would put the area where the illegal fishing vessels were spotted north of Uracas. They weren't near the islands though, they were 20 miles from the edge of the EEZ...but still within the EEZ.

HC-130H Long Range Surveillance AircraftFor this operation the US Coast Guard used a HC-130H Long Range Surveillance Aircraft to spot illegal fishing vessels. Once the vessels were spotted from the air, the US Coast Guard Cutter Kukui, a 225' Seagoing Buoy Tender (that's a big boat!), was sent to intercept.

While the Coast Guard press release only mentions the three boats identified 600 miles north of Guam, there were also two other Chinese Taipei vessels filmed from the air. I don't know if those boats were intercepted or not.

Coast Guard Cutter KukuiSo what's the point?

Well, we've been very careful to not make any promises on behalf of the US government, but it is probably not a stretch to assume that there could be increased patrols of the northern waters if they were designated a monument. The people that I know who are involved with Papahanaumokuakea say that the Coast Guard patrols increased in their monument after it was declared.

I do not know how often the patrols are made here locally, but I think they are only made a few times a year. The last trip I remember hearing about was the one where Morgan Rose and Lannie Walker accompanied the Coast Guard to Alamagan to drop off Christmas gifts to the kids living there. Even on that trip, two illegal foreign fishing vessels were spotted.

It seems to me that every time a patrol ship goes up there they catch illegal foreign fishermen. These aren't small boats either, they are catching large commercial longliners that have the ability to spend weeks at sea.

It would benefit local fishermen if these fishing vessels were no longer in our waters. Increased patrols would be a good start.

Kudos to the Coast Guard on a job well done.

cutter kakui saipan tribune front pageThis story made the front page of the Saipan Tribune today. The title of the article is Three vessels caught fishing illegally in NMI's EEZ. Actually, only one boat vessel was caught. The other two got away.


Saipan Writer said...

A national marine monument could also give the CNMI some enforcement power. Despite our current inability to do anything right, we have a vestd interest in taking care of the waters, and in the long run, local empowerment to help enforce the protection of the monument / sanctuary waters would be good.

Lil' Hammerhead said...

Logic would say.. a monument will encourage additional patrols. You know that those waters are being fished by Asian fishing operations. The thing that sickens me the most when I here these stories.. after the fact of the fish being taken by foreign longliners of course, is that you won't hear a peep from most of the anti-monument folks about their outrage over these fishing boats. And you know why? Because that's not what this is about for most of them.. they could give a rat's ass about the illegal fishing, or the fish themselves.. they simply tow the "these are our waters and the feds aren't going to have anything to do with them" line. That's it. For some reason.. maybe it's the way the information is being communicated, there is a disconnect where the fact that Wespac is a federal body is concerned.

There is, of course, the "greed factor".. maybe we can hope that this greed will help encourage at least some of the anti-monument individuals to speak out against the illegal fishing.. and help lobby for more patrols.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

I for one would like to see more patrols. If there are Chinese fishing vessels up there, who knows what else could be up there?

Perhaps Osama bin Laden is hiding on Uracas?

Just kidding.

But all kidding aside, there needs to be more enforcement.

Again, kudos to the Coast Guard for cathing illegal fishermen.