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Canada is leading its first high seas mission in the Indo-Pacific, specifically in the North Pacific, to fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has highlighted that IUU fishing poses a significant risk to salmon stocks in the North Pacific Ocean and is considered a potential driver of salmon declines in the area.
“This illegal activity is a major contributor to declining fish stocks and marine ecosystem destruction around the globe, and it undermines the livelihoods of legitimate fish harvesters everywhere, including here in Canada,” the Canadian Government said in introducing it. An experienced team of DFO fisheries officers from across BC will carry out the mission alongside the Canadian Coast Guard, both of which will be assisted by some experienced boarding officers provided by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Boardings, inspections, and scientific data
Through the Indo-Pacific Strategy, Canada is committed to protecting this region as a coastal country. The area stretches from Canada’s west coast to Japan’s east coast and covers approximately 28 million square kilometers. More than 1,200 vessels are registered to fish on the high seas (beyond the 200 nautical mile jurisdiction) of the North Pacific under the North Pacific Fisheries Commission.
To fulfill their commitment, Canadian fisheries officers are leading their first mission in the region. In it, they will conduct patrols, by international law, to enforce the United Nations ban on high seas driftnets and ensure compliance with regulations protecting against IUU fishing. The operations will include high seas boardings and inspection operations, but officers will also collect scientific data to inform understanding of the high seas environment, including the migration range of species of concern, such as Pacific salmon.
“Pacific salmon is vital to the food security, cultures, and economies of numerous First Nations, as well as the livelihoods of thousands of workers in rural and coastal communities in British Columbia and Yukon,” said Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. “As fish are not bound by borders, we must take decisive action to safeguard these species. This high seas enforcement operation will assist in the rebuilding efforts we are undertaking domestically,” she added.
This could be Murray’s last announcement as Fisheries Minister after she announced on her Twitter profile yesterday that, after much thought and reflection, she had decided not to run again in the next election after her current term. The statement comes just in the week that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce a major cabinet reshuffle. “It has been a privilege to advance work in tackling climate change, nature conservation and improving the lives of Canadians, and I look forward to continue engaging with these challenges,” Murray added following her announcement.
International collaboration and Pacific salmon advocacy
Canadian fisheries officers have previously participated, since 2019, in the annual Operation North Pacific Guard on United States Coast Guard vessels (an international law enforcement operation on the high seas of the North Pacific). This time, the U.S. Coast Guard will collaborate under Canadian leadership by providing experienced boarding officers. The Canadian Coast Guard is also contributing experts in navigation and small craft operations, with advanced levels of emergency medical training to this mission. All under the leadership of an experienced team of DFO fisheries officers from across BC.
In addition, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has contracted Atlantic Towing to provide a vessel for this operation. This joint patrol will contribute to a multinational effort known as Operation North Pacific Guard and will be underway through the fall.
Canada, which works with several partner countries and non-governmental organizations to address IUU fishing issues globally and to support legal and sustainable fisheries, is authorized under a number of international agreements under Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) to conduct patrols and inspections to uphold these international agreements.
This mission to enhance conservation, protection, and enforcement efforts in high-risk areas for Canada’s Pacific salmon stocks is supported by funding from the Pacific Salmon Strategic Initiative (PSSI). As part of the PSSI and over the next five years, DFO is committing more than $46 million to combat IUU fishing in the North Pacific, including the deployment of this offshore patrol vessel to the region.
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