News: Honolulu-based cutter returns home after law enforcement patrol
Story by Angela Henderson
HONOLULU – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Kukui returned home Friday after completing a 54-day law enforcement patrol across the South Pacific.
During the patrol, the crew of Kukui participated in significant regional operations to further enhance U.S. and international efforts to protect the ecologically and economically valuable fish stocks of the Pacific.
Their mission was to conduct maritime surveillance operations to detect, deter, and eliminate activities such as illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and other transnational crimes.
After departing Honolulu on Oct. 24, Kukui’s crew headed south of the equator where they completed 31 boardings, exercised four bi-lateral agreements and participated in two multi-national operations. During their mission, they visited four foreign ports.
On the first leg of the voyage, Kukui embarked an enforcement partner from Kiribati. By exercising the bi-lateral agreement between the U.S. and Republic of Kiribati Kukui assisted in enforcing laws and regulations in Kiribati’s Exclusive Economic Zone for the benefit of sustaining the international tuna fishery.
During this period, the crew boarded one U.S. vessel and seven foreign fishing vessels. All but one of the fishing vessels were found to be in compliance with applicable laws and regulations and one was cited for minor violations of Kiribati license agreements.
Kukui made port in Papeete, Tahiti, and Bora Bora to replenish supplies and allow the crew to recover from intensive operations. While in Papeete, Kukui’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Bob Little, conducted diplomatic visits with Oscar Temaru, President of French Polynesia, Richard Didier, the French High Commissioner and Rear Admiral Jerome Regnier, the Commander of French Military Forces in the Pacific.
Kukui then participated in Operation Kuru Kuru, a multinational operation orchestrated by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency. The operation was conducted in cooperation with 18 countries across the Pacific. Kukui partnered with a Cook Islands enforcement official patrolling the Cook Islands EEZ for the duration of the eight day operation.
During Kuru Kuru the Kukui crew boarded eight additional fishing vessels. Seven were found to be in compliance with all laws and regulations.
One vessel had a discrepancy with its Vessel Monitoring System, which is a transmitter that provides visibility to the Forum Fisheries Agency and the sovereign nation of fishing activity in their EEZ.
The vessel was subsequently directed to return to port to make necessary repairs. Three U.S. vessels were also boarded during Kuru Kuru and one was cited for not meeting U.S. requirements for safety equipment onboard.
Kuru Kuru was the largest-scale operation to reduce illegal and unreported fishing to ever take place in the region.
Upon completion of Kuru Kuru, Kukui patrolled the American Samoa EEZ, documenting numerous safety violations as well as two suspected non-U.S. master violations during the course of three boardings in this area. Kukui then continued south to engage with Tonga Defense Services officials to facilitate enforcement of Tonga’s EEZ bordering American Samoa EEZ.
Kukui became the first U.S. vessel to exercise a new bi-lateral agreement with Tuvalu. They conducted coordinated patrol operations with the Tuvalu Pacific Patrol Boat that resulted in four fishing vessels being cited for major violations of Tuvalu law. Upon completion of the operation, Kukui visited Funafuti, Tuvalu for a port call. The Tuvalu Prime Minister and Maritime Police Force hosted the crew for a celebration of the new agreement and the success of the combined operation.
Kukui’s crew was able to board vessels on the high seas that were subject to the regulations of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, to which the United States is a party. Kukui was tasked with ensuring compliance with various Conservation and Management Measures in place throughout the Central Pacific.
These CMMs ensure that only proper gear is utilized, all catch is reported, unnecessary by-catch is limited and that endangered or threatened species in the Pacific are protected from harm.