North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission

Enforcement Activities

Enforcement Activities

The Committee on Enforcement (ENFO) is the forum for coordinating and exchanging information among fisheries enforcement agencies of the member countries regarding compliance with the provisions of the NPAFC Convention.

Background and Major Achievements

ENFO’s inaugural meeting, first as a sub-committee, was held in Ottawa, Canada in 1993. The combined monitoring activities in 1993 by the Parties included over 1,400 ship patrol days with 40 patrol vessels and more than 1,100 aerial hours with one helicopter and three patrol aircrafts. During this period, six vessels were sighted with unauthorized activities and two of them were apprehended. Information on trade and suspected trafficking in anadromous fish taken in violation of the Convention as well as statistics on imports of fresh, chilled and frozen salmon were reviewed. International trade data from 1992 showed that non-salmon producing countries continued to export canned and frozen salmon to the European Union and Australia. Many of the salmon were believed to be illegally caught on the high seas. The concept of a certificate of harvest origin program was discussed to deter trade in illegally harvested salmon.

In 1994, no unauthorized high seas salmon fishing activity was confirmed in the North Pacific Ocean. Such fisheries would be inconsistent with the United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for a global moratorium on large-scale pelagic driftnet fishing in the high seas and could adversely affect the conservation of anadromous stocks.

The United States reported the discovery of one stateless vessel in 1995, which was actively engaged in driftnet fishing on the high seas of the Convention Area. The vessel was seized and taken to Guam, USA. It was recommended that the Parties should, as appropriate, encourage States or entities not party to the Convention to deposit their instrument of acceptance to the Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas as soon as possible. This could serve as a mechanism to obligate non-member states to support and cooperate with other objectives and principles of the treaty.

A Taiwan driftnet vessel actively engaged in fishing with a large-scale driftnet in the Convention Area in 1996 was detected by cooperative enforcement efforts among Parties. The seizure of the vessel and arrest of the master and crew were made by the Taiwan authorities acting on a request by the United States Government

Six vessels were detected in 1997 for their illegal high-seas driftnet fishing operations in or near the Convention Area. One of the vessels was registered under the People’s Republic of China. The People’s Republic of China indicated that the vessel was ultimately seized by its authority. The United States, in cooperation with Canada and Japan, seized another stateless high-seas driftnet vessel which was fishing in the Convention Area. READ MORE

In 1998, cooperative enforcement efforts resulted in the detection of several high-seas driftnet vessels. From these sightings, four vessels were apprehended. READ MORE Due to the continued threat of high-seas fishing for salmon in the Convention Area, all Parties pledged to maintain 1999 enforcement activities at levels similar to those of 1998, as a deterrent to the threat of potential unauthorized fishing activities.

An Enforcement Standardization Symposium was organized in Kodiak, Alaska, in 1999. The “List of Questions for Standardization of Enforcement Practices” was developed at the Symposium, assisting in planning and improving the effectiveness of high seas driftnet (HSDN) patrols. The Enforcement Planning and Coordinating Meeting was held in Tokyo in 2000. During that meeting the organizational structure of the agencies primarily responsible for HSDN enforcement efforts was discussed and information on primary points of contact for HSDN cases was exchanged.

Several NPAFC enforcement events and activities were conducted in 2001, which contributed to improved enforcement cooperation and coordination: the Pre-Season Enforcement Planning Meeting held in Victoria, Canada; the ad hoc Patrol Coordination Group hosted by the US Coast Guard in Juneau, Alaska; and the Enforcement Evaluation and Coordination Meeting in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia.

In 2001 the level of international cooperation was highlighted by the first ever enforcement patrol of the Convention Area by a US Coast Guard C-130 patrol aircraft staged out of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia, with representatives from each of the Parties. In 2002 the Concept of Operations on the Joint Operations Information Coordination Group was adopted and the Enforcement Procedures Working Group was created to review the existing and other possible enforcement activities.

In 2003–2006 the Integrated Information System (IIS) was developed. This web-based program was designed to share information and facilitate real time enforcement efforts throughout the year. In 2006 the first ever joint enforcement plan was created. A comprehensive plan resulting from the cooperative efforts of all the Parties (Canada, Japan, Korea, Russia, and United States) included patrol vessel and aircraft surveillance of the Convention Area throughout the high threat season. An enforcement symposium, “Patrol tactics, planning and execution of enforcement in the NPAFC Convention Area”, was also held in 2006. The purpose of the symposium was to bring together enforcement professionals from each country to share lessons learned and best practices from their respective agencies.

Pursuant to the UNGA Resolutions on prohibiting driftnet fishing on the high seas, Taiwan authorities implemented the followings measures to forbid high-seas driftnet (HSDN) fishing by the Taiwan-flagged vessels in North Pacific Ocean: prohibition of direct fishing for anadromous stocks, HSDN fishing, at-sea transportation of driftnet fishing gear or equipment, and foreign driftnet fishing vessels entering any national port. Taiwan contributes in fisheries enforcement among their national flagged vessels by dispatching their own patrol vessels, conducting onboard inspections of squid and saury vessels that operate in the fishing grounds of the North Pacific Ocean, and reports this information to the NPAFC. In 2005–2012, Taiwan sent 1 to 3 patrol vessels for monitoring operations in the southwestern part of the NPAFC Convention Area for 84 to 242 days annually. During patrols, Taiwanese vessels sighted and reported on four HSDN boats with their photos and description of illegal fishing operations that was very helpful for the NPAFC-related enforcement.

In 2007 the ENFO initiated a program of cooperation with the Technical Committee on Compliance (TCC) of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC; and the Fisheries Working Group (FWG) of the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum (NPCGF).

In 2008 the first ever International North Pacific IUU (illegal, unreported, unregulated) fishing workshop was held in Vancouver, Canada. Participants included numerous groups involved with fisheries enforcement, including NPAFC ENFO, NPCGF FWG, WCPFC TCC, and the International Monitoring Control and Surveillance Network. These organizations vary in membership and representation both by state and agency, and the convention provisions on monitoring control and surveillance, area, and species of interest. What the agencies have in common is the strong mandate to protect the natural marine resources of the Pacific Ocean and to combat IUU fishing.

In 2008–2009 Canada employed a newly-launched earth surveillance satellite (Radarsat 2) as a means of monitoring vessel activity in the NPAFC Convention Area. The space-based Automated Identification System (AIS) has also been employed as an additional tool for enhancing information on vessel contacts provided by Radarsat 2.

In 2010 the United States initiated a bi-weekly enforcement conference calls with participation of the enforcement agencies of the member countries on a voluntary basis. These calls are an effective real-time communication tool for coordinating enforcement patrols and updating case information.

In 2011, enforcement cooperation was successful in reducing illegal high-seas fishing. One stateless fishing vessel was spotted by an aircraft of the Fisheries Agency of Japan. This information was passed to the US Coast Guard, which responded with a patrol vessel. The vessel was engaged in unauthorized and illegal high-seas large-scale drift-net fishing. The US Coast Guard patrol vessel conducted boarding and inspection and found 30 tons of squid and 54 shark carcasses. The vessel was seized for violation of US Law. READ MORE

In 2012, Commission members also continued successful enforcement collaboration in the Convention Area. Patrol efforts included a combined 153 ship patrol days, over 370 aerial patrol hours, and the use of radar satellite surveillance.

The combined monitoring activities in 2013 by NPAFC-related enforcement agencies included over 120 ship patrol days, more than 498 aerial patrol hours, and satellite support. Members collaborated through joint ship patrols, participation of personnel in the air and ship patrols of other member countries, and regular conference calls.

The combined multilateral efforts in 2014 resulted in significant enforcement actions. Two suspicious vessels were sighted by US Coast Guard air patrolling. Later, one of these vessels was detained in Russia for not having a valid fishing license. In another case, a suspected high seas drift net (HSDN) vessel was encountered by a Canadian CP-140 aircraft during its patrol with two FAJ inspectors aboard. The USCG Cutter enforcement officers investigated this vessel and found that the net tube, net spreader, and 3.3 km of driftnet had been dumped over sea during the night. During investigation, half a ton of net-scarred salmon was discovered in the ship’s freezer. READ MORE

The combined multilateral efforts by enforcement agencies of NPAFC member countries resulted in no observed high seas driftnet or IUU fishing activities in 2015. The coordinated enforcement efforts of the member countries in 2015 covered significant portions of the NPAFC Convention Area, including over 400 hours of aircraft patrols and exceeding 100 ship days. Over 500 fishing vessels were sighted and none were detected conducting illegal fishing activities. Inspection of several transhipment vessels did not indicate retention of salmon captured on the high seas. This confirms that a high level of coordination and patrol and inspection effort acts as a strong deterrent to IUU fishing.

In 2016, a suspicious fishing vessel under the People’s Republic of China flag was sighted by Fisheries Agency of Japan patrol vessel to be equipped with driftnet gear (net tube, rollers) and carried radio buoys used for driftnets within the Convention Area. A refrigerated cargo ship was sighted by the US Coast Guard patrol aircraft unflagged and with vessel name painted out within the NPAFC Convention Area in the Bering Sea. The Committee on Enforcement considered an expanding of enforcement activities by directing investigation efforts towards transshipment vessels/suppliers.

The Parties scrutinized over 2,000 fishing vessels by the Parties’ aircrafts and cutters in 2017. No high seas driftnet fishing interdiction or IUU fishing activity in the NPAFC Convention Area was sighted during the 2017 patrolling season. Member Parties also discussed the status of acceptance of the FAO Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA). This international agreement is designed to harmonize and strengthen controls and deter illicit activity by preventing illegally caught fish from entering the global marketplace. The Agreement has gone into force as of June 5, 2016. Effective and consistent application of this Agreement by nations would add a new level of deterrent by decreasing the profitability of illegal transshipment of fish at sea and in port.

Prior to 2018 ENFO regular meeting, a one-day ENFO workshop on “Emerging IUU indicators and warnings in the North Pacific Ocean” was held. The main purposes of the workshop were to identify indicators and warnings, establish an updated contact list for enforcement, investigation, and prosecution, and share information on how to combat IUU fishing. READ MORE

On June 11, 2018, the Chinese flagged fishing vessel, Run Da, conducting illegal high seas driftnet (HSDN) fishing in the North Pacific Ocean had been sighted by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) C-130 aircraft. After a joint boarding and inspection conducted on June 16 by the USCG and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Coast Guard shipriders, custody of the vessel was transferred from the USCG Cutter Alex Haley to the PRC Coast Guard Vessel 2301 on June 21, 2018, for prosecution. The captain of the Run Da admitted to fishing with driftnets up to 5.6 miles in length. The joint boarding team discovered one ton of squid and 80 tons of chum salmon on board. PRC Coast Guard Vessel 2301 has escorted the Run Da back to China for prosecution. READ MORE

Prior to the 2019 Committee on Enforcement (ENFO) regular meeting, a one-day ENFO workshop on “Combating IUU Fishing and New Technologies” was held. At the workshop, there were presentations from six invited global enforcement and commercial experts. Presentations focused on overviews of contemporary approaches to Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) development, including collaborative organizations and new technologies in combating IUU fishing that could potentially be applied within the NPAFC Convention Area.

In 2020–2022, due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, ENFO held email meetings twice a year to coordinate patrol plans and discuss regular business matters. In addition, ten to twelve email conferences to communicate patrol outcomes were completed every year. No IUU fishing or vessel of interest sightings were reported in 2020–2022. Canada reported multiple discrepancies between AIS information transmitted by fishing vessels and the IRCS markings. The U.S. summary patrol report showed that significant Pacific salmon bycatch exists at the massive pelagic fisheries in the northwestern North Pacific Ocean. Preventing salmon bycatch was actively discussed with the North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC). NPFC encouraged its members, on a voluntary basis, to report significant encounters of salmon during inspection to the SWG on Operational Enforcement, which will discuss any report on a case-by-case basis. In May 2023, at the first ENFO in-person meeting after the break, the five-year work plan to the NPAFC/NPFC Memorandum of Cooperation was adopted and joint workshops were proposed on at-sea transshipment and salmon bycatch matters.

The Study Group on IUU Vessel Listing Process was formed on September 10, 2021. Draft Terms of Reference for an NPAFC IUU Vessel List proposed by the United States was elaborated upon, along with submission for external review to SPRFMO and NPFC Compliance Managers. At the 2022 E-mail ENFO Meeting, the committee recommended approving the revised draft Terms of Reference for the NPAFC IUU Vessel List which is to be launched at the 2023 NPAFC Annual Meeting. During the First Plenary at the 2023 NPAFC Annual Meeting, the Report of the 2022 ENFO Meeting containing the Terms of Reference for the NPAFC IUU Vessel List was adopted. The Working Group on Listing of IUU Fishing Vessels (WG-IUU) continues working with Parties proposals to amend the Terms of Reference for the NPAFC IUU Vessel List to make this tool more effective in combatting IUU fishing in the NPAFC Convention Area.

In October 2022, Korean government officials from the Fisheries Monitoring Center (FMC) of the  Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) of the Republic of Korea—visited the NPAFC Secretariat as part of a two-week training program arranged by the Secretariat. The program consisted of several lectures from the Secretariat that included general NPAFC roles and functions as a regional fisheries management organization, law enforcement systems and activities, and scientific research activities and statistics. Two lectures from outside entities were provided—by Dr. Rashid Sumaila from the University of British Columbia (UBC) regarding IUU fishing, and by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) presenting on Canada’s fisheries resources management system. After the training, FMC joined the ENFO community and reported on the Port State Measures implementation in Korea at the 2023 NPAFC Annual Meeting.

A one-day ENFO/CSRS Workshop on Threats and knowledge gaps related to Pacific salmon conservation on the high seas was held on May 14, 2023. Seven invited presentations were delivered covering such important topics as fisheries monitoring systems, analysis of fishery fleet movement and usage of satellite luminescence for fishery efforts monitoring, application of genetics and salmon tagging methods for the IUU fishing enforcement, and results of the 2022 International Year of the Salmon (IYS) Pan-Pacific High-Seas Expedition. The workshop developed recommendations on data collection and sampling protocols, data collection, development of predictive models for salmon migrations, and collaboration with other RFMOs.

Ongoing efforts to curtail the large-scale high seas driftnet threat by continuing a constant vigilance at sea and in port is crucial for sustainable fisheries management and the conservation of salmon in the North Pacific. Multilateral enforcement operations coordinated in the NPAFC arena, regular information exchanges between NPAFC-member enforcement agencies, and a consistent enforcement presence in the North Pacific all act as effective deterrents against IUU fishing activities.