U.S. Government Activities in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape
At a high-level dialogue on March 22 in San José, Costa Rica, Under Secretary Jose W. Fernandez and Assistant Secretary Monica P. Medina announced U.S. government support for the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor.
Key U.S. government activities in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape are highlighted below.
- Signed in late 2021, the Partnership for Sustainably Managed Fisheries initiative from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will help train port authorities and strengthen the ability of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. NOAA and other federal agencies are also beginning to engage with partners in the region to strengthen sustainable marine protected area management as well as conservation and restoration of blue carbon habitats.
- The U.S. Government has provided Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama with access to SeaVision, a Department of Transportation-led program that enables partner countries to access and share U.S. maritime domain awareness information and collaborate with maritime partners.
- U.S. Southern Command partnered with Florida International University is working with NGO Global Fishing Watch to advance awareness, detection, and deterrence of IUU fishing in the region and to further enable counter IUU fishing efforts through data sharing and subject matter exchanges.
- To operationalize the high seas boarding and inspection procedures from the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement in the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization and to combat IUU fishing in the region, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) deployed the Cutter Stone last fall in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama, expanding regional interoperability and patrolling sovereign waters to deter illegal fishing.
- The USCG and State Department support Colombia’s and Ecuador’s Coast Guards with Mobile Training Teams. Mobile Training Teams offer host nations a variety of program specialties including search and rescue, law enforcement, boat operations, outboard motor maintenance, maritime operations and planning, and IUU fishing.
The Department of Labor awarded a $5 million grant in December 2021 for an International Labour Organization project in Ecuador and Peru to strengthen working conditions and combat IUU fishing in coastal communities.
In Fiscal Year 2021, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) flew 6,590 maritime patrol hours with Colombian, Costa Rican, Ecuadorian, and Panamanian partners. These efforts resulted in the interdiction of approximately 201,450 pounds of cocaine and 49,820 pounds of marijuana.
- The U.S. Navy installed automatic identification system antennas along the Colombian coast to support maritime domain awareness efforts.
- The State Department is installing a radar and constructing a coast guard station and pier on Gorgona Island, purchasing $2.6 million in boat engines to improve the Colombian Coast Guard’s operational readiness, and funding the upgrade of the Colombian Navy’s maritime patrol aircraft.
- The Enterprise for the Americas Initiative and the Tropical Forest Conservation Act provide annual funding for Fundación Malpelo to protect the Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary.
- The USCG provides resident maritime boarding officer training to Colombia using International Military Education Training funds and conducted Key Leader Engagements with Colombian Navy leadership to discuss the rollout and implementation plan of the USCG’s 2021 IUU Fishing Strategic Outlook.
- The State Department facilitated the donation of 200 vessel monitoring system transponders for the national fishing fleet and awarded two Central America Regional Security Initiative grants totaling $500,000 to Costa Rican NGOs to promote transparent fisheries governance and data accessibility in 2021.
- The State Department and the Costa Rican Coast Guard (CRCG) created a 10-year strategic plan that includes creation of major engineering maintenance facilities on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts and the establishment of a small boat Center of Excellence maintenance training center and maintenance/supply depot.
- Two State Department-funded USCG Curriculum Advisors support the CRCG’s engineering and maritime law enforcement curriculum and specialty training at the CRCG Academy.
- The USCG supports Costa Rican maritime law enforcement operations by embarking shipriders and providing USCG law enforcement detachments to serve aboard Costa Rican surface assets. The USCG also transferred former USCG Cutters Long Island and Roanoke Island to the CRCG in 2017 through the Excess Defense Articles Program and transferred a third cutter in 2018 to be used for parts. The cutters have extended Costa Rica’s maritime coverage.
- The State Department funds several Ecuadorian Coast Guard capacity-building initiatives and equipment repairs and plans to provide sensors and communication equipment to the Ecuadorian Navy to expand maritime domain awareness and help counter IUU fishing.
- USAID and the State Department fund trainings for prosecutors to prosecute IUU fishing and wildlife trafficking. For example, two Ecuadorian prosecutors from the Galápagos participated in a wildlife crime scene investigation course in October 2021, and the Ecuadorian environmental police unit received counter-wildlife trafficking training in November 2021.
- Since 2018, the U.S. government has provided a Lockheed P-3 Orion aircraft and a Boeing 707 carrying an airborne warning and control system to periodically conduct operations and gather information on illicit activities related to drug trafficking and illegal fishing.
- In August 2020, the USCG Cutter Bertholf and the Ecuadorian naval vessel LAE Isla San Cristobal jointly patrolled over 3,000 square nautical miles of Ecuadorian and international waters to detect and deter illegal fishing near the Galápagos Islands. In November 2021, Ecuadorian observers embarked the USCG Cutter Mohawk as part of a joint patrol in the Galápagos to counter illicit drug trafficking and IUU fishing.
- In 2021, the Department of Defense (DoD) donated a Near Coastal Patrol Vessel, naval maintenance equipment, and spare parts for high-speed interceptor boats operated by Panama’s National Aeronaval Service (SENAN). The State Department donated equipment to SENAN to support their large vessel maintenance facility. The DoD plans to donate a maritime patrol aircraft in 2022, and the State Department plans to donate two interceptor boats in 2022 and two more interceptor boats in 2023.
- Under the Port Enforcement Task Force, a joint operational entity, Panamanian customs and law enforcement agencies and U.S. counterparts, including DEA, HSI, and CBP, have expanded collaborative capabilities in the targeting, inspection, interdiction, and seizure of undeclared merchandise and narcotics and illegally fished species.
In February 2021, Panama’s Ministry of Public Security codified a U.S-led initiative to design and construct a Joint Regional Air and Navy Operations Center (CROAN) and form a Joint Maritime Force (JMF-Panama) to counter narcotics and IUU fishing.
- The State Department funds regional NGO MarViva to build enforcement capabilities and awareness, with a focus on deterring IUU fishing in the Gulf of Chiriqui.
- In April 2022, the State Department will hold a joint workshop in Panama on smart ports and the prevention of the exploitation of critical assets within the maritime sector as part of the Strategic Ports Initiative.