USCG Cutter Kukui crew returns from Pacific Patrol
HONOLULU – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Kukui returned from a 46-day law enforcement patrol where they exercised bilateral agreements and enforced fisheries regulations across the Pacific Dec. 7, 2012. The 50-man crew participated in several significant regional operations to further enhance U.S. and international efforts in the protection of the ecologically and economically valuable fish stocks of the Pacific Ocean.The crew of Kukui began their patrol on Oct. 22. Their mission focused on maritime surveillance operations to detect, deter, and eliminate illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and other transnational crimes. During the first leg of their trip, the crew conducted three law enforcement boardings in the high seas and in the American Samoa exclusive economic zone, exercised two bilateral agreements with Samoa and the Kingdom of Tonga, participated in a multi-national operation, and visited the three South Pacific ports of Apia, Samoa; Pago Pago, American Samoa; and Vava’u, Tonga. The crew worked to protect U.S. fisheries by patrolling the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones of Palmyra Atoll, Jarvis Island, Howland Baker, and Johnston Atoll. Patrols were also conducted to exercise bilateral agreements with Samoa and the Kingdom of Tonga within both countries’ exclusive economic zones.While on another leg of their patrol, the Kukui crew conducted a patrol of the Samoan EEZ, in accordance with a newly-signed bilateral agreement. Shipriders from Samoa joined the week-long patrol. Crewmembers also conducted law enforcement training to the Samoan ship riders, sharing law enforcement procedures and best practices.“It is great to be able to cooperate in this way to protect the ocean environment and the resources that are so important to the people of the Pacific,” said Cmdr. Steven Ramassini, commanding officer of the Kukui.The Kukui crew completed their Samoa patrol with a visit to Apia, where the Samoan Prime Minister, the Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, paid a visit to the ship. The Prime Minister was given an overview of the Kukui’s law enforcement capabilities as well as an introduction to Kukui’s aids to navigation mission.Another achievement for the Kukui crew was their participation in Operation Kuru Kuru, a multinational operation orchestrated by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency. This operation was conducted in cooperation with 17 countries, including all 13 Central Pacific Island nations. The Kukui crew exercised the Tongan bilateral agreement by embarking a Tongan ship rider to patrol that nation’s EEZ. Kukui crewmembers spent patrol time searching for potential EEZ incursions by vessels not transmitting their location or status in accordance with applicable fisheries regulations.Another leg of their patrol included domestic fisheries boardings in the American Samoa EEZ and high seas boardings under the authorities established by the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.The Kukui’s patrol served to increase U.S. law enforcement presence in U.S. territories of the South Pacific, increasing legal fishing practices and encouraging safe boating. The patrol also served to bolster U.S. – Samoan and U.S. – Tongan relations, resulting in positive U.S. influence throughout the region.