Washington: The US is joining Japan, India and Australia in a new program aimed at curbing illegal fishing as concern grows about the practice by Chinese vessels.
The five-year initiative announced Tuesday aims to promote better tracking of dark shipping and fishing — in which vessels turn off transponders — in the Indo-Pacific region. It will “offer a near-real-time, integrated and cost-effective maritime domain awareness picture,” according to a joint statement.
The announcement coincided with a meeting in Tokyo of the leaders of the four-nation security grouping, known as the Quad, on the final day of US President Joe Biden’s first trip to Asia since taking office.
Concerns have risen that Beijing is negotiating new security deals with Pacific nations following its agreement with the Solomon Islands last month.
“This initiative will transform the ability of partners in the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region to fully monitor the waters on their shores and, in turn, to uphold a free and open IndoPacific,” the statement said.
In addition to curbing illegal fishing, the initiative will help safeguard territorial sovereignty and aid with sea rescue missions, said a senior Biden administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity before the formal announcement. It will cover the Pacific islands, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region in the Indo-Pacific.
Rampant illegal fishing has become a growing concern over the years as Chinese fleets — part of the world’s largest fish-producing nation — are increasingly found in waters claimed by far-flung nations, while contributing to overfishing and pollution.
The Quad program, using radio-frequency and other technologies, will amass unclassified data that can be shared with “a wide range of partners who wish to benefit,” according to the statement.
Biden has sought to use his Asia trip to boost regional ties as a means to counter China’s clout, including with a new economic framework that a dozen Indo-Pacific countries publicly signed onto Monday.
The fishing initiative was first reported by the Financial Times. -Bloomberg