450 Shark Fins Uncovered in International Fisheries Boardings in North Pacific

U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bertholf
U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bertholf boarding team members prepare to board a vessel in the North Pacific, Sept. 23, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

An international boarding team of maritime inspectors from Canada, South Korea and the United States Coast Guard cutter Bertholf uncovered 450 shark fins and 32 potential conservation and management violations during recent annual efforts of Operation North Pacific Guard.

The event is a coordinated effort with cooperating Pacific Rim nations working to counter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. From the beginning of September through Oct. 5, the partners, operating aboard the Bertholf, boarded 15 fishing vessels registered to fish within the Western and Centra; Pacific Fisheries Commission and North Pacific Fisheries Commission convention areas, the Coast Guard said.

Potential violations ranged from use of prohibited gear and failure to maintain records of catch to improper vessel markings. Sixteen of those violations are considered serious violations under provisions of WCPFC and NPFC. Three vessels with a combined total of 450 shark fins onboard were among a fleet of vessels. Other vessels within this fleet refused to allow the boarding team aboard, which also constitutes a serious violation under WCPFC and NPFC.

All violations uncovered during Operation North Pacific Guard become the responsibility of the vessels’ respective flag states to investigate and hold crews accountable, as appropriate.

Rear Adm. Nathan Moore, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard 17th District, said failure to comply with authorized boardings unnecessarily escalates the situation at sea. Moore said he is looking forward to seeing how the responsible flag states uphold the agreed upon governance structure and hold their vessels accountable for such serious violations.