With a mission to support U.S. allies in the Pacific, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) cutter Mellon has set off to protect fisheries near Fiji. Onboard the Mellon, officers from Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) assisted USCG personnel in enforcing the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of “Fiji and the island nations of Kiribati, Tokelau, Vanuatu, and Tuvalu” throughout the last several weeks.
“The U.S. Coast Guard and the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans have a long history of working together to ensure the viability of fish stocks off North America. Working with experts from Canada and regional leaders like Fiji is vital to ensuring food security and the rule of law in Oceania. Working together we are helping to ensure a more secure, free, and open Indo-Pacific.”
Although the Mellon’s crew did train some fisheries officers from Fiji and other countries, the primary goal of the deployment was to interrupt what the USCG calls “illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.” According to a press release from the USCG, IUU fishing robs “billions of dollars” from legitimate fishermen around the world. In total, nearly 30 percent of fishing conducted globally is IUU.
“Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing threatens food security, impacts the sustainability of fisheries, and causes irreparable damage to marine and freshwater ecosystems across the globe. Partnerships, like this one with Canada’s Department of National Defence and the United States Coast Guard, are the key to tackling IUU fishing that threatens many vulnerable coastal communities. We will continue to work with other countries and assist small island developing states in combating IUU fishing to increase security and protect the health of fish stocks around the world,” said the Honorable Jonathan Wilkinson, the Canadian Coast Guard’s minister of fisheries.
However, the USCG also has a tertiary goal in the region: ensuring the United States’ continued partnerships with Indo-Pacific countries. China is constantly looking to grab control in the Pacific, and the U.S. needs to maintain close relationships with countries like Fiji to continue power projection in the region. Although the U.S. Navy recently gave a nod to India by renaming the Pacific Command the Indo-Pacific Command, China countered the move with the sale of the aircraft carrier Liaoning to Pakistan. Support from the USCG helps to ensure the U.S. continues to have friends in the South Pacific.
“Pacific nations have become a new battleground for influence as China seeks to expand its sphere of influence; by default, this marks a new frontline in the global ideological battle,” said Nottingham University’s China Policy Institute senior non-resident fellow Michael Cole while speaking to the Telegraph.