Today is World Oceans Day by declaration of the United Nations, a day that celebrates our oceans and our connections to the sea. Since the Coast Guard is the primary agency for the at-sea enforcement of all U.S. laws and obligations for the conservation of living marine resources (LMR), World Oceans Day seemed like a great time to make a quick note about the Coast Guard’s mission for the preservation of our seas.
Since the late 1800s and the signing of the Fur Seal Act of 1879, the Coast Guard has played a pretty vital role in enforcing the natural marine resource laws. There is actually a Presidential Decision Directive (PDD-36) that outlines the national policy for providing stewardship of the marine resources under U.S. jurisdiction which includes recovering endangered species, protecting marine habitats, and maintaining sustainable fisheries. All of this requires Coast Guard enforcement.
Did you know that over 50% of the worlds fish stocks are fully exploited and approximately 25% are either over exploited or depleted (according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2007)?
In 1976 the Magnuson Fisheries Conservation and Management act ended foreign fishing in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) so that today virtually all legal fishing done in that EEZ is done by domestic fishers. In order to make sure that those legal fishers are the only ones fishing in the EEZ, the Coast Guard is out there working with other federal, state and local agencies to enforce fishing regulations.
In 2008 the Coast Guard detected 81 foreign fishing vessels illegally fishing in U.S. waters. In the last decade there have been hundreds of small Mexican fishing vessels, called launchas, intercepted in the waters off of Texas. This sort of enforcement serves to protect the domestic fishers livelihoods, and also to takes the pressure off the fish populations by protecting them from being over-fished.
Look, statistics and all the long explanations of what we do to protect the seas aside it can be put like this:
Life on this planet is dependent on the oceans and it is the responsibility of every mariner, every recreational boater, every jet skiier, swimmer, weekend whale watcher, really the responsibility of all of us to protect those seas. Every day the Coast Guard is out there protecting the oceans for future generations so that they will be able to enjoy them and be sustained by the life the seas give.
You can find articles about the Coast Guard and our missions to protect LMR all over the internet. For example here is an article on flyrodreel.com by author David Helvarg that talks about the environmental responsibilities of the Coast Guard, specifically fisheries enforcement. (Helvarg is also the author of Rescue Warriors, a book about the Coast Guard that among other things does discuss the marine protection missions of the service.)
You can find more information about World Oceans Day on The Ocean Project webpage. The site has a lot of information including how you can take action to help the oceans. Definitely worth checking out.
Keep an eye out in the Compass for more stories talking about the marine protection work the Coast Guard does and the people who get it done!