Joining forces to protect Alaska’s natural resources

The Coast Guard, along with NOAA and Alaska Wildlife Trooper completed the Alaskan Resident Living Marine Resource Boarding Officer Class, an advance level law enforcement class for qualified boarding officers in the Coast Guard, at the North Pacific Regional Fisheries Training Center. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Kelly Parker.

The Coast Guard, along with NOAA and Alaska Wildlife Trooper completed the Alaskan Resident Living Marine Resource Boarding Officer Class, an advance level law enforcement class for qualified boarding officers in the Coast Guard, at the North Pacific Regional Fisheries Training Center. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Kelly Parker.

At the epicenter of major fishing activities in Alaska is the North Pacific Regional Fisheries Training Center. Located on Kodiak Island, the school is dedicated to training those in Living Marine Resource (LMR) enforcement. With the fishing industry playing such a critical role to the economy and the livelihood of the state, the Coast Guard, NOAA and Alaska Wildlife Troopers are doing all they can to level the playing field against those illegally participating in fisheries here in Alaska.

All three agencies recently joined forces for a week of training by taking part in the Alaskan Resident Living Marine Resource Boarding Officer Class, an advance level law enforcement class for qualified boarding officers in the Coast Guard.

“The reason why we’re working with the Alaska Wildlife Troopers and NOAA is that we have a mutual interest to protect resources and uphold the rules that harbor safe operations at sea,” said Lt. Richard Russell, Coast Guard executive officer of the North Pacific Regional Fisheries Training Center. “State and federal entities all share a piece in enforcing fisheries laws fairly across the board, protecting resources and the safety of life at sea. We all work from similar playbooks to make sure we are upholding those three priorities here in Alaska.”

The weeklong Alaskan Resident Living Marine Resource Boarding Officer Class consisted of basic federal regulations that govern the exclusive economic zone, protecting living marine resources, vessel identification and gear inspection.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Kelly Parker.

The weeklong Alaskan Resident Living Marine Resource Boarding Officer Class consisted of basic federal regulations that govern the exclusive economic zone, protecting living marine resources, vessel identification and gear inspection. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Kelly Parker.

The weeklong course consisted of basic federal regulations that govern the exclusive economic zone, protecting living marine resources, vessel identification and gear inspection. The students also learned how to create case packages when violations are identified and studied the Magnunson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the primary law that governs marine fisheries management in federal waters. Not only did the students receive formal training to become effective law enforcement officers for their respective organizations, they were also provided a regionally focused workshop to better enable interoperability between agencies and promote the sharing of information.

“We work hand-in-hand quite a bit with the Coast Guard,” said Jon Streifel, Alaska Wildlife Trooper Lt. Deputy Commander. “So many of our fisheries are intertwined, state and federal, we often work together to facilitate the knowledge of complex commercial fisheries in our state.”

When the Coast Guard boards a vessel engaged in state fisheries, their main priority is to make sure that the vessel has all the required safety gear onboard, and in case of an emergency, they have what they need to stay alive and to signal for help. If they notice something that may be of concern with living marine resources; undersized or over catching, they will inform the Alaska Wildlife Troopers. When dealing with federal fisheries the priority of safety remains the same, but if a fisheries violation is discovered, the case package is forwarded to District and ultimately to legal council at NOAA, the final disposition for fisheries violations.

“This course has been a great collaborative effort between NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Nathan Lagerwey, Deputy Special Agent in Charge for the Alaska Division of NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement. “We have a lot to learn from each other and we can advance our fisheries missions on both sides by working more frequently together.”

“When you add the element of at-sea enforcement, the Coast Guard will conduct a lot of the ground work and may uncover violations during the course of a boarding,” added Russell. “That information gets shared with our state partners or our NOAA partners, depending on the type of vessel, where it’s fishing, what species is being targeted and who manages that species. It’s very integrated between the three organizations.”

The intricacies of Alaska fisheries and the agencies that monitor it are so intertwined, courses like the one conducted between the three agencies play such a valuable role in providing resource protection. This awareness allows new and veteran law enforcement agents to get the latest and greatest information pertaining to living marine resources so that all have an opportunity to enjoy and benefit from the natural resources in Alaskan waters.

Students, consisting of the Coast Guard, NOAA and Alaska Wildlife Trooper, identify different types of fish species during a course at the North Pacific Regional Fisheries Training Center.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Kelly Parker.

Students, consisting of the Coast Guard, NOAA and Alaska Wildlife Trooper, identify different types of fish species during a course at the North Pacific Regional Fisheries Training Center. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Kelly Parker.