U.S. Coast Guard partners with South America to battle illegal fishing

People setting up pump on vessel at sea (U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Abraham Perez)
Boat crew members with the USCGC Stone set up a dewatering pump on one of the Stone's cutter boats off the coast of northern Brazil on January 14. (U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Abraham Perez)

The U.S. Coast Guard is expanding its partnerships with countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

IUU fishing threatens seafood stocks, undermines science-based fisheries management, puts legitimate producers at a disadvantage and can encroach on coastal states’ sovereign rights.

The U.S. Coast Guard has partnered with 10 countries in the region to increase maritime security. Over the next 10 months, the Coast Guard plans to deploy 15 training teams to Central and South America.

Once there, these teams will help those countries strengthen their law enforcement, engineering, boat operations, search and rescue, and maritime planning operations.

Since 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard has equipped partner nations with nearly 50 boats to help countries combat maritime threats, such as IUU fishing and piracy.

In December 2020, the USCGC Stone left Pascagoula, Mississippi, on its inaugural patrol as part of the U.S. Coast Guard’s multi-month Operation Southern Cross mission.

“Stone’s crew is engaging with partner nations in South America in a like-minded pursuit to curb illegal fishing tactics,” said the Stone’s commanding officer, Captain Adam Morrison.

Operation Southern Cross promises to expand U.S. relationships with the governments of Brazil, Guyana and Uruguay. Beyond the immediacy of Operation Southern Cross, the U.S. government intends these collaborations to promote long-term regional stability, security and economic prosperity.

In January, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Guyanese Defense Force Coast Guard completed cooperative exercises to combat IUU fishing. The USCGC Stone then traveled along the coast of Brazil, where the crew monitored possible IUU fishing activities and strengthened the U.S.-Brazil partnership through cooperative exercises with the Brazilian Navy.

Later in the month, the USCGC Stone arrived at the port of Montevideo, Uruguay. Morrison joined counterparts from the government of Uruguay to announce new measures to certify large fishing ships have not been engaged in IUU fishing by requiring vessel monitoring system location data.

“IUU fishing threatens fish stock’s health and adversely impacts those who follow global norms and national laws,” said Vice Admiral Steven Poulin, the commander of U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area. “This is a global issue, and IUU is a problem too big for any one nation.”