Canada fights illegal fishing with Operation North Pacific Guard

News release

Fishery officers onboard Canada’s surveillance aircraft during a night patrol to inspect fishing operations.
Fishery officers onboard Canada’s surveillance aircraft during a night patrol to inspect fishing operations.

November 2, 2022

Ottawa, Ontario - Canadian fishery officers have now completed their work in Operation North Pacific Guard, an annual international law enforcement operation on the high seas of the North Pacific. This multilateral operation conducted alongside the United States, South Korea and Japan aims to detect and deter illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing activity, which is a major cause of declining fish stocks and marine ecosystem destruction around the globe.

Fishery officers and air crew were deployed to Hokkaido, in northern Japan, where they conducted daily patrols over the Northwest Pacific, a region known for its density of high seas fishing activity. Fishery officers were also deployed to the US Coast Guard Cutter Munro from which they boarded and inspected fishing vessels alongside our international partners. 

This year, Canada flew 29 patrols over 247 hours, and covered a total of 44,200 nautical miles as part of Operation North Pacific Guard. Canadian officers discovered concerning incidents of sharks being caught and kept and garbage pollution, and noted a large number of vessels with improper identification markings. During vessel inspections, fishery officers also reported many cases of harvesters failing to maintain proper catch records –  a key element used to calculate sustainable harvest limits.

Operation North Pacific Guard is part of Canada’s larger role to protect Canadian livelihoods, fish stocks and marine ecosystems, and to better understand potential harms to migratory fish stocks such as Pacific salmon and tuna. Operation North Pacific Guard serves as an opportunity for international law enforcement partners from Pacific nations to work together to enforce regulations adopted by regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) related to fishing on the high seas.

This December will mark the 30th anniversary of the United Nations ban of high seas driftnets. Drift net fishing is a technique that uses large panels of netting which hang vertically in the water and drift in the currents and the wind to capture fish and other wildlife living in the ocean. High seas driftnets are a threat to Canadian migratory fish stocks such as Pacific salmon, and their use has a devastating impact on all living marine species. Joint operations such as Operation North Pacific Guard are critical to monitor and enforce these types of bans, to protect marine ecosystems and migratory fish stocks.

Through Operation North Pacific Guard, Canada continues to show its commitment to enforcing rules and regulations to protect fish stocks and marine ecosystems, and contribute to Canadian livelihoods.

Additional multimedia

Fishery officers observe a densely packed fishing fleet as they participate in light-based fishing activities.  The red lights indicate the vessels are actively fishing.
Fishery officers observe a densely packed fishing fleet as they participate in light-based fishing activities. The red lights indicate the vessels are actively fishing.
A Canadian fishery officer inspects several bags of shark tails and shark fins that have been retained but not recorded in catch logs.
A Canadian fishery officer inspects several bags of shark tails and shark fins that have been retained but not recorded in catch logs.

Quotes

“Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing cheats people living in coastal communities out of hard-earned income. In addition, it causes severe harm to aquatic ecosystems and fish stocks, like wild Pacific salmon. Hard-working, law-abiding harvesters work to protect oceans and ensure sustainable fisheries here in Canada and around the world. We will continue working with our international and non-governmental partners to combat these harmful practices that affect global food security and fish sustainability.”

The Honourable Joyce Murray
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“We are grateful to Japan for their assistance in facilitating the movement of equipment and personnel in support of Operation North Pacific Guard. Canada and Japan have much to gain by increasing our interoperability, as we work together to uphold the rule of law. Our two countries are committed to ongoing cooperation in countering illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, as set out in the Canada-Japan Action Plan for contributing to a free and open Indo-Pacific region, announced last month by our respective Ministers of Foreign Affairs.”

H.E. Ian G. McKay, Ambassador of Canada to Japan

Quick facts

  • Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing is a major cause of declining fish stocks and marine ecosystem destruction around the globe. It is estimated that it accounts for about 30 per cent of all fishing activity worldwide — that’s up to 26 million tonnes of fish, costing the global economy up to $23 billion a year. 

  • Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing threatens the livelihoods of fish harvesters everywhere. It impacts the food security, human rights, and economic stability of millions of people in coastal communities, in Canada and around the world.

  • Canada works with several partner countries and non-government organizations to address illegal fishing issues at a global level and to support lawful, sustainable fisheries.

  • There are over 1,300 vessels currently authorized to fish in the high seas of the North Pacific.

  • Canada works within regional fisheries management organizations, including the North Pacific Fisheries Commission, North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, to advance sustainable fisheries policy and strong management and regulatory measures and ensure fishing operations in the high seas of the Pacific Ocean covered by these organizations are sustainable.

  • Operation North Pacific Guard was supported by Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Dash-8 patrol aircraft, and guided by intelligence cooperation from Canada’s Marine Security Operations Centre, US Coast Guard District 17, US Coast Guard Maritime Intelligence Fusion Centre, Global Fishing Watch and Canada’s Department of National Defence.

Associated links

Contacts

Kevin Lemkay
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
613-992-3474
Kevin.Lemkay@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
613-990-7537
Media.xncr@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

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