The 'Carl Vinson' Carrier Strike Group fulfilled a new mission: patrol and secure protected fishing areas in the southern Pacific
While that mission is routine to the Coast Guard, it was the first time an aircraft carrier was involved in fighting illegal fishing in Oceania, a vast region northeast of Australia.
Officials say Oceania is important not only to U.S. economic prosperity, but also 22 Pacific island nations financially dependent on their local fisheries.
A key area is what’s known as the “Tuna Belt,” which runs along the equator and supplies 57 percent of the world’s tuna.
Many livelihoods are threatened by illegal fishing, said Coast Guard Cmdr. Mark Morin, incident management branch chief with the Coast Guard’s 14th District in Honolulu. “There’s about $1.7 billion annually that is lost to illegal fishing [in Oceania],” said Morin.
The Coast Guard’s limited assets make it tough for constant air and sea patrols to enforce maritime laws in Oceania.
Carl Vinson and its embarked carrier air wing, along with the cruiser Bunker Hill and destroyer Halsey, participated, marking the Navy’s biggest support of the mission yet. The Vinson’s jets, turboprops and helicopters flew more than five dozen sorties patrolling the region.