Local man involved in Coast Guard's capture of vessel

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

Juneau, Alaska—A Brunswick County man in the U.S. Coast Guard has played a role in the capture of vessel suspected of illegal driftnet fishing.

Jon Smith, a 2007 graduate of West Brunswick High School, was on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter “Munro” when it was involved in seizing a Chinese fishing vessel suspected of illegal large-scale, high-seas driftnet fishing 460 miles east of Hokkaido, Japan.

Vectored in by a Canadian maritime patrol aircraft, the “Munro,” with a People’s Republic of China Fisheries Law Enforcement Command (FLEC) officer on board, intercepted the Chinese-flagged fishing vessel “Lu Rong Yu 2879.”

A joint China FLEC/U.S. Coast Guard boarding team from the “Munro” determined “Lu Rong Yu 2879” had 7 miles of driftnet, about 45 tons of squid and about 110 pounds of skipjack tuna on board, was rigged for large-scale high-seas driftnet fishing, and was registered in the People’s Republic of China.

The “Munro” will assist with accompanying the “Lu Rong Yu 2879” until the fishing vessel can be transferred to a Republic of China Fisheries Law Enforcement Command patrol vessel for escorting back to China where further investigation and final legal disposition for suspected violations of PRC fisheries law will occur.

Smith, a former WBHS athlete and JROTC member, was part of the “Munro” boarding team.

“Last year we were able to seize six vessels engaged in similar activities,” said Capt. Michael Inman, chief of response of the 17th Coast Guard District. “Not only are these fishing practices illegal in both the U.S. and China, they are indiscriminately destroying marine life and negatively impacting global food stocks.”

A driftnet is a fishing net that has the ability to indiscriminately catch massive amounts of fish and other marine life by means of suspension in open water. The U.S. Coast Guard participates in the international cooperative efforts against large-scale high-seas driftnet fishing as encouraged by the United Nations.

“China is very satisfied with the cooperation between the United States and China and looks forward to continuing this productive partnership.” said Peng Xiaohua, deputy director, Fisheries Law Enforcement Command Center. “This was the outcome of long-standing U.S.-China fisheries law enforcement cooperation on the high seas.”

The term Illegal Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing describes a wide range of destructive fishing activities, which includes use of large-scale high-seas driftnets. Many maritime nations, including the U.S., have undertaken to monitor and deter IUU fishing, and protect shared living marine resources and their environments.

The United States, Japan, Canada, Russia, South Korea and China are part of the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum. This forum, which is now meeting in San Francisco, Calif., was in part developed to combat IUU fishing and increase cooperation on international maritime safety and security issues in the Northern Pacific Region.

Additionally, The United States, Japan, Canada, Russian and South Korea are part of the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Convention (NPAFC), a regional fisheries management organization which meets annually to discuss issues related to marine science and high seas fisheries enforcement. Enforcement meetings under the NPAFC achieve coordinated efforts.

“This seizure is directly attributable to the work done through organizations like the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum and North Pacific Anadromous Fish Convention (NPAFC),” said Vice Adm. David Pekoske, Commander, U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area. “The results of our efforts speak to our home countries of the relationships we’ve formed in the past several years.”

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter “Munro” is a 378-foot high endurance cutter based in Kodiak, Alaska.

In March, Smith, of Longwood, was involved in a rescue for the “Alaska Ranger,” a fishing vessel that went down with 47 people on board. Forty-two people were rescued that day.

Smith’s older brothers, Jerome and Jadell, are also in the Coast Guard.

Smith is the son of Paula Daniels and also has a sister from the area, Jeonna Smith. Additionally, he said, Katie and Cleve Crawford were parental figures in his life that served as inspirations to him, along with his family.