Over the past two years, the US Coast Guard has made strong statements suggesting that it will increase its efforts to deter illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities. In doing so, the Coast Guard could also consider strengthening its role as trainer of other nations.
IUU fishing occurs outside of careful resource management plans that ensure fish species can maintain healthy and sustainable populations. In 2020, the Coast Guard identified IUU fishing as the “leading global threat to maritime security” in its Strategic Perspectives on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing.
IUU fishing around the world has led to unsustainable overfishing. Like other natural resources, the importance of fisheries has far-reaching geopolitical ramifications, including impacting the economic stability and food security of coastal nations. IUU fishing has also been linked to international security concerns. The collapse of fishing is one of the motivating factors for the rise of piracy in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia. In addition, China’s active use of its maritime militia has supported known and suspected encroachments by Chinese fishing vessels on the fisheries of other nations around the world.
Fisheries management is not only important for maintaining coastal economic stability, it is also a “soft” foreign policy tool for increasing national and global geopolitical security. Effective fisheries management is comprised of maritime domain awareness and enforcement capabilities, science to determine sustainable fisheries, and government regulations to support healthy fish stocks over the long term. Historically, many countries have not had the resources to support the scientific or enforcement requirements of fisheries management, so any regulations developed have been rendered ineffective.
Fortunately, the tools available to monitor, measure, and fix these problems have become much more effective, more widely available, and much cheaper to operate over the past five years. The most notable change is the development of powerful, remote, inexpensive and publicly available maritime surveillance tools, developed specifically for the purpose of combating IUU fishing. By combining satellite imagery, vessel tracking, vessel registry data and radio frequency data, organizations such as the nonprofit Global Fishing Watch have applied the power of big data analytics to help fisheries managers to combat illegal fishing – and they have freely shared this information with the world.
Now, instead of sending a helicopter or boat to patrol their fisheries management areas, managers can look online to see which vessels have been or are currently in their area. These same vessels may be flagged for suspicious patterns that may indicate illegal fishing, transshipment of fish, or forced labor at sea. This bird’s-eye targeting ensures that fisheries law enforcement officials are better informed. , better able to manage resources and more efficient. Potential illegal incursions or suspected national offenses can be tracked and vessels boarded at sea or inspected on their return to port.
New monitoring capabilities are not the only tool needed to protect fisheries. To ensure the long-term health of the fishery, nations may also need science-based management with enforceable government regulations and agreements. Recent studies suggest that simply closing areas to fishing can provide a simple, long-term solution towards creating sustainable fisheries for many countries. In areas where governance and law enforcement are already a challenge, simple and easily enforceable laws can lead to better resource protection.
The US Coast Guard Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Strategic Outlook Implementation Plan explores ways to build partner nation capacity, coordinate information sharing with partner stakeholders (including NGOs), and support elements of the U.S. Foreign Service such as the Department of State and U.S. Agency for international development. This implementation plan also includes the development of a five-day training course on combating IUU fishing for partner countries.
Traditional American fisheries law enforcement resources and techniques, such as the use of aerial patrols and complex management regulations, have made the American model of fisheries law enforcement enviable but difficult to replicate.
This is the first time in history that fisheries managers have such revolutionary tools. As the US Coast Guard begins to assess its international position in the fight against IUU fishing, the most effective role for our Coast Guard may be as a global trainer of other nations, focusing on simple and enforceable backed by free and accessible maritime domain awareness. tools. Teaching others to protect their own fish could be a step in the right direction in the fight against IUU fishing.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Homeland Security Today, which welcomes a wide range of views in support of securing our homeland. To submit an article for review, email [email protected]