A Project of the Coast Guard Aviation Association

1976 – 200 Mile Fishing Zone Established by Public Law 94-265

The Coast Guard Was Given the Responsibility for Enforcement

c 130 interdiction - 1976 – 200 Mile Fishing Zone Established by Public Law 94-265: The Coast Guard Was Given the Responsibility for Enforcement
C -130 making an identification pass

Public Law 94-265, also known as the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act, established a 200-mile fishery conservation zone, effective March 1, 1977. It established Regional Fishery Management Councils comprised of Federal and State officials including the Fish and Wildlife Service. The concept of a fishery conservation zone was subsequently dropped by amendment and the geographical area of coverage was changed to the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), with the inner boundary being the seaward boundary of the coastal United States.

The Act provides for management of fish and other species in the EEZ under plans drawn up by the Regional Councils and reviewed and approved by the Secretary of Commerce. It provides for regulation of foreign fishing in the management zone under GIFA’s (governing international fishing agreements) and vessel fishing permits. It also provides a mechanism for preemption of State law by the Secretary of Commerce.

The Coast Guard was given exclusive jurisdiction over the Fisheries Conservation Zone and provided the ships and aircraft and much of the manpower to staff the sensing equipment and the command and control function of operations. The National Marine Fisheries Service, which is primarily concerned with gathering management and scientific data, assisted in enforcement. The State Department has also played an important role in fisheries law enforcement. The State Department negotiated the various treaties and international agreements. A close liaison between the State Department and the Coast Guard was needed since any interference with foreign shipping, warranted or not, could certainly affect U S relations.

Contrary to popular opinion, there is no “200-mile” limit within which foreign fishermen are forbidden. Foreign governments apply for permits which enable their vessels to conduct a direct fishery for an allocation of certain species. Vessels are required to check in and out of designated areas with the Coast Guard District by radio. The area encompassed by the 200-mile-wide band surrounding the United States and its possessions adds up to 2.5 million square miles of ocean and contains an estimated 20 percent of the world’s fishery resources.  In order to enforce any regulation in any fishing area at any given time, fishing vessels must be classified as fishing in accordance with the provisions of their permits and existing regulations or in violation of these controls; violators must be apprehended; and some prosecutor action must be taken.

  Enforcement of regulations in the new 200- mile fishery zone is complicated by the size of the area and the fact that fishing is to be regulated not prohibited. It became readily apparent that, given the vastness of the area, Coast Guard aviation resources were absolutely essential to the operation. Surveillance and enforcement efforts concentrate on vessel and aircraft patrol operations in active fishing areas. A mix of long and medium range aircraft patrol the areas to monitor foreign fishing and coordinate with cutters engaged in fishing patrols.

Additional flight hours were required and equipment to implement them was obtained. Four new HC-130 aircraft were purchased. As an interim measure four reactivated HC-131 were utilized as replacement aircraft to free up HU-16s to operate in the New England area. An additional HC -131 was utilized for patrols in the Gulf of Mexico area. The HC-131s were replaced by HU-25s when they came on board. Five HH-52 helicopters were assigned for deployment duties aboard Coast Guard cutters engaged in fishery patrols. Ten new HH-65 helicopters were procured to replace the HH-52s, resulting in a net increase of five Short Range Recovery helicopters in the Coast Guard inventory.

The “active fishing areas” concept which focused efforts on those areas which had historically shown, or were known to possess sufficient quantities of fish to support commercial exploitation, were geographically designated as high threat areas. Responsibility was assigned by Coast Guard District. The remaining area of the fishery conservation zone is overflown on a situational basis.

  • Northeast – CGD1  –Traditionally cod, flounder and haddock
  • Mid-Atlantic – CGD5 – scallop fishing
  • Southeast/Gulf of Mexico –CGD7 and CGD8 – shrimp
  • Great Lakes – CGD9 Canadian commercial fishing vessel encroachments
  • Pacific Coast- CGD11 and CGD13 – ground fish species and salmon
  • Central/Western Pacific – CGD14 – migratory species such as tuna
  • Alaska – CGD17 – Peak activities lasting several months – salmon, halibut, king crab.

The method of enforcement is by overt presence by both surface vessels and aircraft; a barrier patrol operation used to board vessels enroute to or from a fishing ground; and pulse operations in which assets are concentrated for a dedicated period and concentrated on a specific fishing fleet or low compliance to a particular regulation.

As an example:  In 1978 the Western Aleutian salmon fishery attracted over 600 Japanese vessels to Alaskan waters during the summer. An additional monthly average of 300 vessels wwa engaged in year round operations in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. A six to ten hour HC-130 patrol originated daily from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak carrying a National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) agent on board. During multiple runs at 150 knots and 200 feet of altitude the HC-130s zig-zagged over 1500 track miles of the Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian chain, or Bering Sea. Identification of vessels was made by name and homeport and activity noted and recorded together with position, course and speed. The sighting was documented by a 35 mm camera. Comparison of sighting data was made with historical data from a “management information system” computer in Juneau. This enabled selective interception and boarding of high interest targets.

HH-52 helicopters were deployed aboard 378-foot cutters arriving in Alaskan waters from the Pacific Coast and Hawaii. The HH-52s were equipped with light airborne radar and guided by x-band transponders and shipboard TACAN. Normal HH-52 shipboard deployment was for a period of up to seventy days of continuous reconnaissance duty, greatly expanding the cutters surveillance capability and thereby increasing mission effectiveness. Acts of provocation were rare, but a ship’s boarding party boarding party was vulnerable during a tense confrontation between a cutter and a violator. It was generally recognized that the cutter and her main battery constituted an ample deterrent.

The doctrine of hot pursuit became unnecessary. Even citations issued by aircraft could result in stiff fines or revocation of permit. In 1983 for instance a HC-130 from Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii made an aerial seizure when it ordered the Japanese fishing vessel Daian Maru #68 to sail to Midway Island to await a Coast Guard boarding team. The Captain complied.

Over the years the number of statutes the Coast Guard has been given enforcement responsibility for has continued to expand. Mission creep set in. The present program has expanded to additional marine environmental and conservation areas. The strategic plan to provide effective planning and use of resources to fulfill this mission is known as OCEAN GUARDIAN.

The Modern Era