Working with the government of Samoa, crews from the U.S. Coast Guard vessels Juniper (WLB 201) and Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126) conducted security patrol operations in Samoa’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) throughout February to protect fisheries and other natural resources.
The crews helped fill the operational presence needed to deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing while Samoa’s Nafanua II patrol boat is out of service.
“We always look forward to assisting our partners in the region,” Cmdr. Jeff Bryant, the 14th District’s chief of enforcement, said. “The United States offered to assist the government of Samoa by providing security and sovereignty operations in Samoan waters due to the absence of their patrol boat.”
The cutters have been underway in Oceania supporting Operation Aiga, designed to integrate Coast Guard capabilities and operations with U.S. Pacific Island Country partners in order to effectively and efficiently protect shared national interests, combat illegal and unregulated fishing and strengthen maritime governance on the high seas.
Oceania, which has a population of about 40 million people and covers an area of 3.3 million square miles, is regularly patrolled by the Coast Guard and its international partners.
As a partner in the Pacific, the Coast Guard employs 11 bilateral shiprider agreements with Pacific Island Forum nations like Samoa to support resource security and fisheries enforcement. These agreements enabled the Coast Guard to aid host-nation sovereignty while patrolling Samoa’s EEZ.
The USCG and the government of Samoa have a history of partnership. In 2019, the Coast Guard cutters Walnut and Joseph Gerczak visited Apia Harbor and conducted patrol operations with officials from Samoa’s Ministry of Police and Ministry of Fisheries on board. In 2021, the crew of the cutter Oliver Berry conducted similar patrols while Samoa’s patrol boat underwent repairs.
“Operation Aiga is named that for a reason: Aiga means ‘family’ in Samoan, and that’s how we view our Pacific neighbors,” U.S. Ambassador to Samoa Tom Udall explained. “This is real partnership. Together we can stop those who seek to steal valuable resources that simply don’t belong to them.”