HONOLULU — The Coast Guard documented a fishing vessel operating in protected waters this week during a routine surveillance patrol of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument.
A Coast Guard C-130 from Air Station Barbers Point located the 53-foot U.S.-flagged fishing vessel Astara loitering inside the monument on Jan. 19. The aircraft documented the vessel commencing a haul back of its longline fishing gear approximately four miles inside the monument boundary northeast of Necker Island. A Coast Guard patrol boat, the Kauai-based Kittiwake, dispatched a law enforcement team that boarded Astara and gathered evidence that will be forwarded to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement for further action.
The monument includes all waters within 50 miles of the islands, atolls, reefs and submerged land of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The area includes the NWHI Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge/Battle of Midway National Memorial, Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands State Marine Refuge and Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary.
Monument regulations promulgated by NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2006 prohibit certain activities within the monument, including all commercial and recreational fishing, with the exception of eight vessels federally permitted to conduct bottomfishing.
The Coast Guard conducts routine enforcement and surveillance patrols of the Monument and works closely with NOAA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Hawaii to enforce the newly enacted Monument regulations.
“The Coast Guard is the primary agency responsible for at-sea enforcement of federal fisheries laws and we work very closely with our federal and state partners to do that,” said Lt. Cmdr. Mark Young, the fisheries enforcement officer for the Coast Guard’s Fourteenth District, which oversees operational units in Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, and Asia.
“We are deeply committed to good stewardship of our oceans and protecting the rich and fragile ecosystems of this unique part of the world. Aggressive enforcement of a wide variety of regulations designed to protect vital marine ecosystems is an important aspect of this commitment,” said Young.