USCG was not involved with the boarding — and citing — of a US flagged vessel
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Lt. Commander Karin Evelyn, the Public Affairs Officer for the 14th Coast Guard District (Hawaii-Pacific) has confirmed to Samoa News that the US Coast Guard had no involvement with the boarding of the F/V Princess Karlinna II last Monday afternoon.
“We were made aware of the F/V Princess Karlinna II boarding,” LCDR Karin said via email earlier this week in response to Samoa News inquiries. “The U.S. Coast Guard did not have any involvement with the incident; nevertheless, as good stewards, we are looking into the claims.”
She continued, “We reached out to our counterparts and after receiving conflicting claims of the boarding location, we are working together to determine what conspired. The U.S. Coast Guard has a very good relationship with the MSA (Maritime Surveillance Advisor) program and with our partner Pacific Island Countries fisheries agencies; and we are actively combining efforts to get it resolved.”
According to LCDR Karin, “We reached out specifically to the Australian MSA to Samoa, which provides assistance to the patrol boats they gifted to the Pacific Island countries. Although they also had no involvement with the situation, they reached out to the Samoa Maritime Operations Center on our behalf.”
Samoa News has been told that on the day in question, the F/V Princess Karlinna II was surrounded by three patrol boats as they were setting their line. The crew members reported that officers from the Nafanua II boarded and cited them for not “weighing every single fish they catch.”
It was initially assumed that the vessel was a US Coast Guard patrol boat but the crew was later told that it was the Nafanua II — there were two other boats that surrounded the F/V Princess Karlinna II that day.
An official from Longline Services Inc., explained to Samoa News that there was concern, that the F/V Princess Kalinna II “might have drifted unintentionally into a neighboring Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)” but the VMS tracking image proved otherwise.
Questions and frustrations are now being voiced by owners and operators of US flagged vessels, wanting to know if there has been a change of procedures — or regulations — as far as Samoa, Cook Islands, or Tokelau patrol boats having jurisdiction to board and cite US flagged vessels.
OPERATION IKA MOANA
Samoa News understands that the incident was part of the annual Forum Fisheries Agency-led “Operation IKA MOANA” which was carried out October 30th - November 11th.
According to <directionsamoa.com> the Government of Samoa hosted IKA MOANA’s Maritime Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) 2019 Operations through the Samoa Police Maritime Unit under the Ministry of Police.
“The main objective of the event is to demonstrate regional interoperability and co-operation in conducting Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) activities within the area of operations; to combat and eliminate illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, and other forms of maritime crime,” directionsamoa.com reports.
“Now in its seventh year, the joint maritime surveillance event, Operation IKA MOANA, has been successful in terms of its achievements in the region but also a strong reflection of the Blue Pacific one family spirit.
“The operation supports calls from Blue Pacific leaders to push forward in addressing the issue of illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing — striving to abolish within the next five years.
“An estimated $US600 million is lost annually through illegal fishing, according to the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) 2016 report on illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.”
The main areas covered through the operations mainly focus around Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). More than 100 personnel from all crews were expected to participate in the event — from Tonga, Cook Islands, Niue, Kiribati, and Samoa.
The expanding annual event officially began in 2012. The Nafanua II is a Guardian-class patrol boat that was purchased for ST$30 million.