As Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyer USS Shoup (DDG-86) steams through the Oceana region on an independent deployment, the crew is assisting small Pacific island nations with protecting their exclusive economic zones.
Shoup is engaged in an Oceania Maritime Security Initiative (OMSI) deployment, which has the ship working with several Pacific island nations to offer training on how to protect crops. A nation’s territorial waters extend 12 miles from shore, but countries can claim exclusive economic zones – controlling access to fisheries and ocean floor minerals — up to 200 miles from shore. Many of these nations do not have the type of equipment to patrol their waters adequately, Cmdr. Andy Strickland, Shoup’s commanding officer, told USNI News.
“We bring a lot of capability to them, whereas they don’t have the long-endurance equipment to remain on station,” Strickland said of the assistance the U.S. Navy offers Pacific island nations.
Shoup recently pulled into Fiji, offering to help the local military officials patrol the nation’s fishing region. Strickland said much of his job is meeting with local officials, “Communicating to these Pacific island nations that we’re here to help,” Strickland said. “We’re not here to patrol the waters or fish the waters too; we’re here to help you protect your natural resources.”
Much of Shoup’s mission is protecting the island nations’ fishing rights, which is a vital part of the local economies, Strickland said. U.S. Coast Guard personnel are aboard Shoup, offer to nations law enforcement services the Navy does not provide.
“A lot of island nations do not make their money by fishing their own waters,” Strickland said. “They make their money by selling permits for other counties’ commercial fishermen to come in and fish their waters.”
Fishing boats with flags from all over the Pacific to fish. Complicating the mission, Strickland said, is each nation sets its priorities for its exclusive economic zone. Shoup’s crew monitors ships working inside a nation’s these zones. If something looks fishy about a vessel’s operations, the Coast Guard can board the fishing boat.
To help sort through the myriad of fishing regulations, the Navy has also signed ship-rider agreements with ten island nations, Strickland said. These agreements allow a local naval officer from a host nation rides with Shoup.
“(Shipriders) kind of call the shots, per se, inside their exclusive economic zone,” Strickland said. “We utilize our sensors to identify the fishing craft out there and propose it to them if they want to board this vessel. If they’re agreeable to that, the Coast Guard and ship-rider will board the ship and go through their myriad of checks that they’re operating within in the law.”