Chinese, U.S. Coast Guards Team Up for Driftnet Bust

The inspection team boards the Run Da, June 16 (USCG)

Published Jun 22, 2018 7:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

While Chinese and American maritime interests may not always align, that hasn't stopped their respective coast guards from teaming up to fight maritime crime. The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley and an embarked team from the China Coast Guard recently detained the Chinese fishing vessel Run Da for illegal driftnet fishing in international waters. The intercept and boarding occurred on the high seas about 750 nm east of Hokkaido, Japan.

A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak C-130 aircraft first spotted the suspected illegal fishing activity and reported it for follow-up. Upon arriving on scene, the joint U.S. Coast Guard-China Coast Guard team on the Alex Haley conducted a set of pre-boarding questions over bridge-to-bridge radio. After questioning was complete and clearance to board was obtained from both the United States and China, theHaley's boarding team deployed to assist the PRC Coast Guard investigation and to document the suspected activity.

The enforcement agencies believe that the Run Da violated the longstanding, worldwide driftnet moratorium imposed by the United Nations. The boarding team found a five nm long driftnet on the vessel's fantail and the captain of the Run Da admitted that his vessel had been using the banned equipment.

The Alex Haley crew transferred custody of the Run Da and its crew to the China Coast Guard cutter 2301 on Thursday. The 2301 will escort the Run Da back to China for prosecution. As flag state, China has jurisdiction for any enforcement actions against the vessel, master or owner.

“This case was the first apprehension of a large-scale, high seas driftnet vessel since 2014 and highlights the successful fisheries enforcement cooperation and patrols of the U.S., Canada, China, Japan, Russia and the Republic of Korea," said Capt. Darran McLenon, chief of response for the 17th Coast Guard District. "[It shows the] value of shiprider agreements, which enable joint high seas boarding and inspections."

The joint high seas interdiction was conducted under a long-standing agreement between the U.S. and China on fisheries enforcement and boarding procedures. It allows law enforcement officers from either country to inspect each others' fishing vessels for suspected driftnet fishing, and it authorizes China Coast Guard personnel to join relevant USCG fisheries enforcement missions as shipriders. China has provided 111 enforcement officials to the U.S. Coast Guard for joint fisheries enforcement operations since the MOU first entered into force in 1993, leading to 22 interdictions and enforcement actions against vessels engaged in large-scale, high seas driftnet fishing.