Canada Leads First High Seas Mission to Fight Illegal Fishing in the North Pacific

News release

July 24, 2023

Sidney, British Columbia - The Government of Canada is a world leader in the fight against Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing. This illegal activity is a major contributor to declining fish stocks and marine ecosystem destruction around the globe, and it undermines the livelihoods of legitimate fish harvesters everywhere, including here in Canada. IUU fishing poses a significant risk to salmon populations in the North Pacific Ocean and is considered to be a potential driver of Pacific salmon declines.

That is why Canadian fishery officers are leading their first mission in the Indo-Pacific, a region Canada has committed to protect through the Indo-Pacific Strategy. Officers will conduct patrols, including high seas boardings and inspection operations, to ensure compliance with regulations and to detect illegal and unreported catch. Officers will also collect scientific data to inform our understanding of the high seas environment, including the migration range of species of interest, like Pacific salmon.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has contracted Atlantic Towing to provide a vessel for this operation, which will be underway until this fall. This joint patrol will contribute to a multi-national effort known as Operation North Pacific Guard, involving officers from DFO’s Conservation and Protection program, along with personnel from the Canadian Coast Guard and the United States Coast Guard. 

Funding from the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI) is supporting this mission to enhance conservation, protection and enforcement efforts in high-risk areas for Canada’s Pacific salmon stocks. As part of the PSSI, DFO is committing more than $46 million over the next five years to combat IUU fishing in the North Pacific, including this deployment of a high-seas patrol vessel in the region.

Canada will continue to play an important role in the fight against marine ecosystem destruction and declining fish stocks caused by IUU fishing, like Pacific salmon. 


“Pacific salmon is vital to the food security, cultures, and economies of numerous First Nations, as well as the livelihoods of thousands of workers in rural and coastal communities in British Columbia and Yukon. As fish are not bound by borders, we must take decisive action to safeguard these species. This high seas enforcement operation will assist in the rebuilding efforts we are undertaking domestically. I wish the fishery officers, Coast Guard personnel, and crew a safe and successful journey and thank them for their efforts in curbing illegal fishing activities.”

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

Quick facts

  • Officers will conduct patrols, under international law, to enforce the United Nations Ban on High Seas Driftnets and to ensure compliance with regulations that protect against IUU.

  • There are over 1,200 vessels registered to fish in the high seas (beyond 200NM jurisdiction) of the North Pacific under the North Pacific Fisheries Commission, an area that covers from the west coast of Canada to the east coast of Japan.

  • Canada is authorized under a number of international agreements under Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) to conduct patrols and inspections to uphold these international agreements. This is an area of approximately 28 million square kilometres.

  • An experienced crew of DFO fishery officers from across BC will be participating.

  • The Canadian Coast Guard is contributing experts in navigation and small craft operations, with advanced levels of emergency medical training to this mission.

  • The US Coast Guard is providing experienced boarding officers to participate in these Canadian-led boardings, and who will work alongside Canadian fishery officers on board.

  • Canadian Fishery officers have taken part in the annual Operation North Pacific Guard on United States Coast Guard vessels since 2019, an annual international law enforcement operation on the high seas of the North Pacific.

  • 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.

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Matthew Dillon
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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