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Canada wraps up Operation North Pacific Guard to combat global illegal fishing


Canadian patrol aircraft overflying a fishing vessel and a carrier vessel on the high seas of the North Pacific Ocean. (CNW Group/Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Canada)

OTTAWA, ON – Canadian fishery officers have now completed their work in Operation North Pacific Guard, an annual international law enforcement operation in the high seas of the North Pacific with Canada’s counterparts from the United States, Korea and Japan. The operation largely took part aboard the US Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf and included the deployment of a Fisheries and Oceans Canada aircraft patrol based in Japan. 

Results from the operation include the detection of prohibited gear, failure to maintain records of catch, improper vessel markings and illegal retention of salmon. Overall, the operation detected 42 violations, 25 of which are considered serious violations of regional fisheries management organization measures that will be investigated and addressed by relevant flag states where warranted. 

In addition to supporting the Bertholf, Canada’s aircraft detected and collected evidence of active shark finning and dumping of garbage into the Pacific. 

Canadian fishery officers along with US Coast Guard locate bags of illegally taken shark fins during an inspection in the North Pacific. (CNW Group/Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Canada)

The operation is part of Canada’s larger role in helping to protect Canadian livelihoods, fish stocks and marine ecosystems by working with other countries and non-government organizations to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing on the global stage, and better understand potential harms to migratory stocks such as Pacific salmon and tuna. 

For several years, Operation North Pacific Guard has been an opportunity for international law enforcement partners from Pacific nations to jointly detect and deter illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing on the high seas, and to monitor compliance with international laws using the latest technologies and enforcement best practices, including Canada’s Dark Vessel Detection Program.

Joint operations such as this are critical for monitoring fleet activity and compliance with international agreements such as the United Nations ban on high seas driftnets as well as conservation measures under regional fisheries management organizations.  

Operation North Pacific Guard was supported by Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s new Dash-8 patrol aircraft, and guided by intelligence cooperation from Global Fishing Watch, Canada’s Department of National Defence, US Coast Guard District 17, and Canada’s Marine Security Operations Centre.  “Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing undermines the international regulation and stewardship of keystone ocean species. It cheats millions of people living in coastal communities out of hard-earned income, and causes serious harm to our marine ecosystems. Canada will continue to work with our federal, international, and non-governmental partners to combat these harmful practices. Together, we’ll protect our waters and the livelihoods of hard-working, law-abiding harvesters, at home and around the world.” stated newly appointed Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the honourable Joyce Murray. 

Quick Facts

  • Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing is a major contributor to declining fish stocks and marine ecosystem destruction around the globe. It is estimated that it accounts for about 30 per cent of all fishing activity worldwide — that’s up to 26 million tonnes of fish costing the global economy up to $23 billion a year. 
  • Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing undermines the livelihoods of legitimate fish harvesters everywhere. It impacts the food security, human rights, and economic stability of millions of people in coastal communities, including Canada’s. 
  • Canada works with several partner countries and non-government organizations to address illegal fishing issues at a global level and to support legitimate, sustainable fisheries. 
  • There are over 1,300 vessels currently registered to fish in the high seas of the North Pacific. 
  • Canada works within the North Pacific Fisheries Commission, North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, to advance sustainable fisheries policy and robust management measures and ensure fishing operations in the high seas covered by these organizations are sustainable.