Latin American nations beef up naval power to fight IUU fishing

As pressure on fish stocks increases worldwide, countries are scaling up their military responses to threats posed by both local and foreign fleets fishing illegally in their territorial waters.

A Huffington Post article noted that Ecuador's navy and the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS) have been patrolling the Galapagos Islands together for some years now in joint operations to combat illegal fishing there.

“Their collaboration did not stop with traditional patrols,” the article went on to note. “In 2009, they established joint-control centers and deployed satellite vessel monitoring transceivers aboard all vessels of 20 gross tons to stop illegal fishing of the national commercial fleet.”  

Plans are underway to have the Ecuadorian navy and GNPS share data generated by electronic monitoring systems that include high-powered video cameras and radars, as well as to use Automatic Identification System transceivers aboard all vessels.

Further, an article on the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) website stated that, in response to illegal fishing by Chinese vessels in the Galapagos Islands discovered in August, the Ecuadorian Navy carried out naval exercises aimed at combating transnational maritime crimes.

“Days after the exercises, the Ecuadorian media reported that [the submarine] Huancavilca had departed for the Galapagos Islands to help with patrolling the area against illegal fishing activities,” the article said. ““It is also worth noting that Ecuador and other nations are obtaining new naval platforms, particularly offshore patrol vessels (OPV), to monitor their maritime territory.”

Another CIMSEC article noted that the Uruguayan Navy plans to acquire up to three new vessels, likely OPVS from the German shipyard Lurssen. The purchase be the country’s largest acquisition of new sea platforms in years, and the vessels will be the new “cornerstone of the fleet and will be charged with patrolling Uruguay’s EEZ for maritime criminals, such as illegal fishing vessels,” the article noted.

And a Washington Post article, in September, highlighted the fact that “as part of the pending National Defense Authorization Act, '[the US] Congress asked the Navy to help fight illegal fishing.”  

The CIMSEC author thus noted, “One concern looking toward the future is whether there will be more violent confrontations between illegal fishing fleets and security forces given a growing demand for maritime resources.”


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