Story by Chief Warrant Officer Sara Muir
U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam
SANTA RITA, Guam — The crew USCGC Frederick Hatch (WPC 1143) returned to Apra Harbor at the end of September following a successful deployment to Palau and the southwest corner of Micronesia, where they conducted operations to counter illegal fishing and strengthen relations with Allies and partner nations.
During the busy three-week deployment, the Frederick Hatch crew conducted several fishing vessel boardings on Japanese and Chinese Taipei-flagged vessels with an officer from the Palau Bureau of Public Division of Marine Law Enforcement in the Palauan EEZ.
“It was a pleasure to assist the government of Palau in enhancing their maritime sovereignty and resource security to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing within their exclusive economic zone,” said Lt. Patrick Dreiss, commanding officer of Frederick Hatch. “Palau has been an established and trusted partner for bilateral shiprider operations in the past. Their marine police is an ideal organization for Hatch to complete its first bilateral boardings. The experience was invaluable as we prepare for our upcoming expeditionary patrol in which we plan to complete shiprider boardings with three countries to augment their established maritime law enforcement capabilities.”
The U.S. employs 13 bilateral shiprider agreements with Pacific Island Forum nations throughout Oceania to help them counter illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing within their 200 nautical mile EEZ. The Frederick Hatch crew also made a port call in Koror, marking their first visit to Palau.
The Frederick Hatch crew also searched two nautical miles west of Palau Reef for an overdue vessel, located the following morning by the Sea Dragon aerial surveillance program. Sea Dragon is a radar and camera package used aboard a fixed-wing plane capable of monitoring over 35,000 square kilometers per hour and is designed to identify illegal fishing vessels in the 475,077-square-kilometer no-take zone of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, as well as in the rest of Palau’s EEZ.
“Sea Dragon aerial support was crucial for search and rescue and finding the missing boaters within the myriad rock islands in Palau,” said Dreiss. “We appreciate the opportunity Sea Dragon presents not only for SAR but for maritime domain awareness and law enforcement support.”
“Our Coast Guard crew demonstrated superior performance during intense operations over the past three weeks in support of the Government of Palau,” said Capt. Nick Simmons, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam. “We supported the Government of Palau by embarking a Palauan law enforcement shiprider on our Coast Guard cutter to patrol their exclusive economic zone and ensure Palaun sovereignty. Our crew’s local engagements in Palau reinforced our enduring shared values and heritage and advanced U.S. strategic interests in Oceania.”
The U.S. and its Allies are trusted partners in Oceania. Regular regional patrols support the shared goals of Indo-Pacific Command and the Pacific Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group (Australia, France, New Zealand, and the United States) in support of PIF countries to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing in their exclusive economic zones. The scope of U.S. Coast Guard activities helps address maritime security concerns expressed by the PIF in the 2018 Boe Declaration.
Palau is an archipelago of over 500 islands, part of the Micronesia region in the western Pacific Ocean. Koror Island is home to the former capital, also named Koror, and is the island’s commercial center. On Jan. 1, 2020, Palau fully protected 80 percent of its exclusive economic zone, prohibiting all extractive activities, including mining and fishing. Locally managed fisheries are still allowed to operate within the remaining 20 percent of the EEZ. The United States and Palau maintain diplomatic relations, deep ties, and a cooperative relationship. Under the Compact of Free Association, Palau and the United States agreed the United States has full authority and responsibility for defense and security matters relating to Palau.
The Frederick Hatch is the 43rd 154-foot Sentinel-class fast response cutter named for a surfman and lighthouse keeper who was a two-time Gold Life Saving Medal recipient. The Service commissioned the ship along with its sister ships, Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) and Oliver Henry (WPC 1140), in Guam in July 2021. These cutters are a vital part of the U.S. Coast Guard’s enduring regional presence serving the people of the Pacific by conducting 10 of the Service’s 11 statutory missions with a focus on search and rescue, defense readiness, living marine resources protection, and ensuring commerce through marine safety and ports, waterways, and coastal security.