A team effort between the Department of National Defence and the Department of Fisheries and Ocean was a success.
Last Friday marked the return of a Canadian crew to CFB Comox for their part in a mission to eradicate illegal fishing in the Pacific Ocean.
Operation High Seas Driftnet is part of a collaborative international initiative of the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) to deter illegal fishing activity using aerial and at-sea patrols, as well as satellite imaging technology, explained Randy Kamp, parliamentary secretary for Fisheries and Oceans Friday at a hangar at 19 Wing Comox.
Inside the hangar, the Canadian crew displayed the aircraft — based at the Wing — which participated in the mission and discussed their role in the operations.
“It’s different this year because we’re based in Japan for the very first time,” said Larry Paike, director of law enforcement for Fisheries and Oceans, Conservation and Protection Section.
“We’re enforcing the UN ban on illegal high seas driftnets. That’s a ban that was invoked in 1993 and has been conducted on since that year with co-operation with our partners in the Department of National Defence and this year it was partnered with the Japanese government as well.”
The mission was the first year the operation flew from Hakodate, Japan, which Paike noted demonstrated Canada’s and Japan’s partnership to combating the use of driftnets.
The crew used a CP-140 Aurora aircraft, one of the few aircrafts in the world equipped to effectively search a vast area.
The aircraft patrolled high-threat areas and investigated suspicious radar contacts for illegal fishing, while sensor and photographic data were fed back to Canadian Forces personnel to be complied into a database and plotted on computer displays for analysis.
Capt. Fred Penner, the tactical navigator for the mission said the crew did see a number of illegal boats in the ocean during the course of the operation.
“We did see several large fishing fleets — namely squid, but also found some fairly large tuna boats in the area we were searching,” he said, and added it would take the crew, along with help from a DFO representative about 10 to 15 minutes to determine if a boat was unregulated.
Since 2001, members of the NPAFC (which include Japan, Russia, the Republic of Korea, the United States and Canada) apprehended four vessels for violating the UN moratorium, compared to 14 from 1993 to 2000. During the 2012 mission, 318 contacts were observed from the air and investigated. No illegal, unreported, unregulated high seas driftnet fishing was observed.