In Forbes: Urging Better Funding for U.S. Deep Sea Fishing Enforcement

by Craig Hooper on May 24, 2021

Here’s the link.

The emergence of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing as an “issue” in the Trump Administration is a tale that needs telling. It was, on the part of many folks, an act of bureaucratic legerdemain–The issue couldn’t get too big too fast, or it would have been targeted and killed as a risk to the Trump’s DHS “Wall-Above-All” focus, and yet it had to get big enough to get the notice (and subsequent protection) from Trump’s “Great Power Competition” crew.

How it bubbled up and percolated throughout Washington is a real lesson for issue advocacy folks. I haven’t seen anything like it.

It’s sad IUU fishing is not getting the focus and funding it needs right now. The new appointees at the DoD seem a little too intoxicated by the high-tech promise of a whiz-bang future, and they’re letting the mundane “old school” stuff pass by. That’s unfortunate, as a little bit of investment right now can go a long way, AND China shows no sign of stopping their use of mundane gear to make the West look silly in the maritime.

After all, if it’s worked for the PLA for two decades, why change?

Ultimately, America needs to do a better job of using our high-tech stuff to enable our low-tech effectors. It’s there where the maritime rubber hits the road. But funding just isn’t there, and the Biden Administration really needs to boost the money headed to those “effector” agencies like the Coast Guard–and NOAA, too.

It’s not just a Coast Guard and NOAA matter. The Navy needs to help, too. My suggestion is for the Biden Administration to leverage the military construction budget to help improve Coast Guard forward-basing infrastructure as well as boost the Navajo Class buy, and get some of those working in the IUU fishing space–with China pushing forward into the Pacific, there will be plenty of opportunities for those ships to do high-tech stuff while handling the mundane work of finding, fixing and finishing illegal fisher-folk.

The clock is ticking. There’s not much time left to make a difference. USCG Commandant Karl Schultz will be replaced in a year, and then, if the new Commandant reflects DoD’s high-tech obsession, IUU fishing enforcement will be as good as dead–at least until Chinese fishing boats start showing up off CONUS.

And then it’ll be too late.

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