ALAMEDA, Calif. — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alder, along with the crews of the Terrell Horne and an HC-130 Hercules aircraft recently completed the first high-seas boardings and inspections, in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, under a newly adopted conservation and management measure to monitor and inspect fishing and supply vessel operations at-sea in the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (SPRFMO) Convention Area.
The crew of the Alder performed many new operations that took them south of the equator, where they would participate in SPRFMO inspections, conducting boardings and overflights within the SPRFMO Convention Area on the high seas off the coast of Peru. For years, the Coast Guard has executed counter-illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing operations and participated in high seas boarding and inspections (HSBI) around the globe. This operation was significant as it was timed to implement newly adopted rules in the SPRFMO Convention Area, which comprises nearly a quarter of the Earth’s high seas. The SPRFMO Commission consists of 17 members from Asia, Europe, the Americas, and Oceania, as well as two cooperating non-contracting parties.
The Alder crew also conducted counter narcotics operations, trained two crew members for aerial drone missions launched from the cutter, and sailed with four small boats attached to maintain maximum operational capability during the patrol. The crew also hosted numerous high- level officials while in Paita and Lima, Peru.
The Alder crew participated in GALAPEX 2023, a recurring joint and multinational exercise hosted by Ecuador and executed in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands. The crew conducted communications exercises, practiced counter-narcotics boarding scenarios, and hosted observers from Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil. GALAPEX culminated with full-scale exercises focused on a coordinated multinational response to counter IUU fishing. At the conclusion of the exercise, the Coast Guard patrolled south to focus on high seas boarding inspections off the coast of Peru.
IUU fishing has replaced piracy as the leading global maritime security threat. Areas out on the high seas, beyond any country’s exclusive economic zone, can be exploited by fishers engaged in IUU fishing, as they fish beyond the reach of most law enforcement entities. The Coast Guard’s actions provide inspection presence on the high seas among a distant water fishing fleet made up of more than 400 fishing and transshipment vessels. Much of the fishing in the Eastern Pacific is accomplished by these distant water fishing vessels, some which remain at sea for years at a time, and many of which are supported by supply vessels. The Coast Guard’s recent operation directly supported Central and South American partners and their desire to monitor and expand maritime domain awareness of fishing activity near their exclusive economic zones.
“Unprecedented missions like this give cutter crews purpose and meaning,” said Lt. Cmdr. Paul Ledbetter, commanding officer U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder. “They help the Coast Guard’s retention, and they give our sailors stories that they will carry with them forever. Suffice to say, our crew understood the importance of what we were doing, and we are proud of what we accomplished.”