Operation DRIFTNET

Operation DRIFTNET is a recurring Canadian Armed Forces operation conducted in support of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). It delivers Canada's participation in multinational efforts to control driftnetting and other forms of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in the North Pacific Ocean.

Operation DRIFTNET is conducted under a Memorandum of Understanding between DFO and the Department of National Defence.

About the operation: Video

Transcript for Op DRIFTNET Video

[Patricia Demille:] Illegal fishing activity takes fish from domestic markets that would be legally caught in normal fishing practices.

Operation DRIFTENT demonstrates how partner countries work together to curtail illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing activity.

Patricia Demille, Fishery Officer, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

The CP-140 Aurora aircraft has technical capabilities and a highly trained crew that are able to use sensors to detect any vessels of interest that are giving cues that they might be engaged in illegal activity.

That combined with its long-range capability makes it a valuable asset to this operation.

[Captain Louis St-Pierre:] The CP-140 is a perfect aircraft for Operation DRIFTNET, not just because of our range and sensors, but because of the infrastructure and training we provide to this operation.

Captain Louis St-Pierre, Crew Commander for the CP-140 Aurora Detachment, Op DRIFTNET

A typical day for us on Op DRIFTNET consists of getting our mission brief from DND (Department of National Defence) members and U.S. Coast Guard members based out of Juneau, Alaska.  We liaise with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to ensure their intents are met.

We get together as a crew, we brief our mission, we make sure our tactics are in good working order and that we’re all on the same page, we head out to the aircraft for pre-flight to make sure our sensors are in good working order, and then off we go.

[Patricia Demille:] My role in Operation DRIFTNET is to participate in all flight missions and to work with the sensor crew to identify any vessels of interest, and once a vessel of interest has been detected, there will be various sensors used to identify what type of fishing activity that vessel is engaged in.

Driftnet use is a highly destructive fishing practice. Driftnets can fish indiscriminately and destroy any fish species, marine mammals, or bird life that happen to get entrapped in the nets.

It’s estimated that illegal fishing can cause up to $23 billion a year in losses at all levels of the fishing industry.

These loses are significant to local economies.

Partnerships such as the Department of National Defence and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans combined with the deployment of surface assets such as the U.S. Coast Guard, work together cooperatively to provide a deterrent factor to anyone engaged in illegal activities. When they know we are out there, working together, they are much less inclined to conduct illegal activity.

[Captain Louis St-Pierre:] Working with the staff at the Hakodate Airport has been spectacular. They have been extremely helpful to us. They had everything set up before we got here. We are extremely grateful to them and everything they’ve done for us so far. 

The work is really rewarding. It has been a real treat for us.

The task force

The task force deployed on Operation DRIFTNET is made up from the long-range patrol squadrons of the Royal Canadian Air Force and their CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft, under operational command and control of the Joint Force Air Component Commander in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Flying with CP-140 Aurora crews from the municipal airport in Hakodate, on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, DFO Fishery Officers conduct surveillance patrols over the high-threat zone in the international waters of the North Pacific Ocean. Using the Aurora's enhanced electronic sensor suite, the Fishery Officers and the Aurora sensor operators look for signs of illegal fishing and activity, and gather imagery for use as evidence in enforcement action.

Operation DRIFTNET is supported by the Canadian Armed Forces Polar Epsilon project, which provides RADARSAT-2 satellite imagery.

Mission context

The threat

High-seas driftnetting is an environmentally destructive fishing practice that has been under global moratorium since December 1992.

Driftnet fishing is a technique that uses vast panels of netting, typically 10 to 15 metres wide and up to 20 kilometres long, that are fitted with floats and weights so they hang in the water to entangle fish and other pelagic wildlife as they drift the currents and wind.

Traditionally made of coarsely woven organic materials that allowed small species and young fish to escape, driftnets are now made of finely woven synthetic materials, such as nylon monofilament. Consequently, in addition to their intended catch of mature individuals of such species as salmon, tuna and swordfish, modern driftnets ensnare marine mammals, birds and turtles in large numbers, along with great quantities of fish of unmarketable size or species.

Non-target species and unmarketable fish are classified as "by-catch." Under modern fishing conditions, a high proportion of by-catch is dead when nets are retrieved, and dumped back in the ocean.

The mission

The first patrols of Operation DRIFTNET were flown in 1993.

Fishing in the international waters of the Pacific Ocean was not regulated until 1952, when the International Convention for the High-Seas Fisheries of the North Pacific came into force under the aegis of the United Nations. By 1989, driftnet fishing was so common that up to 2 million square miles of nets were set each year. Between 1989 and 1991, the U.N. General Assembly made three increasingly stringent resolutions on driftnet fishing. The last of the series, Resolution 46/215 of December 20, 1991, called on all members of the international community to implement a global moratorium on large-scale pelagic driftnet fishing in international waters by December 31, 1992.

In 1992, the Convention for the Conservation of Anadromous Stocks in the North Pacific Ocean replaced the International Convention for the High Seas Fisheries of the North Pacific and established the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC). Canada, Japan, the Russian Federation and the United States are charter members of the NPAFC; the Republic of Korea joined as a full member in 2003, and the People's Republic of China became a non-member supporter in 2006. Member nations of the NPAFC work to detect and apprehend vessels involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the North Pacific.

The results

Operation DRIFTNET is an important component of Canada's contribution to the NPAFC. More than four million square kilometres of the North Pacific Ocean are monitored every year, with patrols taking place throughout spring, summer and fall. When illegal activity by a vessel is confirmed by a patrol, the ship's flag is identified and the vessel's nation is responsible for prosecuting the violator.

Operation DRIFTNET patrols also deter potential illegal fishing activity, due to their presence.

Past missions

2017

2017

Operation DRIFTNET 2017, which aims to combat illegal fishing in the North Pacific, took place from July 5 to 29, 2017. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) officers and CAF members took part in this operation. They were supported by the United States Coast Guard out of Juneau, Alaska.

A CAF CP-140 Aurora long-range maritime patrol aircraft was stationed at Hakodate Airport, on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. This location allowed DFO officers flying on the CAF CP-140 to conduct surveillance patrols over the high-threat zone, which is beyond 322-kilometres from shore. Fishery officers and the Aurora sensor operators used the Aurora's electronic sensors to look for signs of illegal fishing and activity. They also used them to gather imagery to use as evidence in enforcement action.

2016

2016

Operation DRIFTNET 2016 took place from June 3 to 26, 2016.

It was coordinated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada personnel from British Columbia, the Canadian Armed Forces and a Royal Canadian Air Force CP-140 Aurora aircraft stationed in Hakodate, Japan, with support from the United States Coast Guard out of Juneau, Alaska.

2015

2015

In support of DFO, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) deployed one CP-140 Aurora aircraft and crew from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron (Comox, BC) to Hakodate airfield in Hokkaido Prefecture (Japan) from June 6 to 28, 2015. They were supported by a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-177 Globemaster III aircraft to transport personnel and equipment. The CP-140 Aurora completed two patrols and flew a total of 12.5 hours.

A total of 14 fishing vessels were visually investigated by the CAF during this year’s operation.

2014

2014

In support of DFO, the Canadian Armed Forces deployed one CP-140 Aurora aircraft  and crew from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron (Comox, BC) to Hakodate airfield in Hokkaido Prefecture (Japan) from May 11 to June 1 2014. They were supported by a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-177 Globemaster III aircraft to transport personnel and equipment. The CP-140 Aurora completed 11 patrols and flew a total of 108.1 hours.

The detection of one High Seas Drift net vessel and two suspect vessels made this operation one of the most successful DRIFTNET deployments in many years.

2013

2013

In support of DFO, the Canadian Armed Forces deployed one CP-140 Aurora aircraft and crew from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron (Comox, BC) to Hakodate airfield in Hokkaido Prefecture (Japan) from August 17 to September 8, 2013. They were supported by a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-177 Globemaster III aircraft to transport personnel and equipment. The CP-140 Aurora completed 9 patrols and flew a total of 116.2 hours.

2012

2012

In support of DFO, the Canadian Armed Forces deployed one CP-140 aircraft and crew from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron (Comox, BC) to Hakodate airfield in Hokkaido Prefecture (Japan) from September 19 to October 6, 2012. They were supported by a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-177 Globemaster III aircraft to transport personnel and equipment. Over several weeks, the CP-140 Aurora flew a total of 88.4 hours.

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