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NEWS | Feb. 16, 2022

Coast Guard Cutter Stratton Visits Fiji during Operation Blue Pacific Patrol

By Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew West U.S. Coast Guard District 14 Hawaii Pacific

SUVA, Fiji -- The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton visited Fiji in February after being underway for 50-days in the Pacific combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

During the visit, Capt. Stephen Adler, the Stratton’s commanding officer, met with members of the Fijian media to discuss the Coast Guard’s partnership with Fiji and their combined effort to protect fisheries resources.

“Our relationships with our partner nations are more important than ever in combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing,” said Adler. “We are pleased to work with our Fijian partners to maintain maritime sovereignty and security throughout the region.”

While in the country, the Stratton’s crew welcomed aboard three Fijian ship riders who, with the assistance of Stratton’s law enforcement boarding teams, will ensure compliance with applicable Fijian fishing laws within Fiji’s exclusive economic zone.

The Coast Guard’s mission to combat IUU fishing is essential in protecting maritime governance and a rules-based international order to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Bilateral shiprider agreements are a force multiplier for both Fiji and the Coast Guard because they allow Fijian law enforcement personnel to observe, protect, board, and search vessels suspected of violating laws or regulations within Fijian waters with the support of Coast Guard personnel and vessels.

Speaking recently during a visit to Fiji, Secretary Antony J. Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, stated “On security, just this week three shipriders from Fiji are joining the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton to conduct patrols in support of maritime sovereignty and security. The United States is proud that several of Fiji’s future leaders are being trained in our military academies.”

The fisheries industry is a significant source of food and income throughout the Pacific. Protecting this renewable resource is a priority for the United States and Pacific Island Countries as IUU fishing in the Pacific has global impacts and effects.

Recently IUU fishing has replaced piracy as the leading global maritime security threat and has the potential to have a global effect if unchecked.

Prior to visiting Fiji, the Stratton’s crew had been working with British, Australian, New Zealand, and French allied naval forces as well as the U.S. Navy in support of the Tongan government following the volcanic eruption on Jan 15th.

The crew also conducted a number of drills and exercises with allied partners including helicopter operations with the Armed Forces in French Polynesia, fueling at sea with the Royal New Zealand Navy Ship Aotearoa, and multiple maneuvering exercises with the Royal Navy HMS Spey.

The Stratton’s crew plans to visit Papua New Guinea as representatives of the Coast Guard and United States. Both the United States and Papua New Guinea are interested in signing a bilateral agreement to codify the two states' strategic partnership in the Pacific and enable the Coast Guard to better assist Papua New Guinea in protecting the island nation’s sovereignty over its EEZ against IUU fishing.

The Stratton is a 418-foot national security cutter capable of extended, worldwide deployment in support of homeland security and defense missions. NSCs routinely conduct operations throughout the Pacific and Atlantic oceans; their unmatched combination of range, speed, and ability to operate in extreme weather provides the mission flexibility necessary to conduct vital strategic missions.

Operation Blue Pacific is an overarching multi-mission Coast Guard endeavor, promoting security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania while strengthening relationships between partner nations in the Pacific.

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