USS Rushmore (LSD 47) file photo. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Amanda R. Gray)

PACIFIC OCEAN - The Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47), with embarked U.S. Coast Guard District 14 maritime law enforcement personnel, departed San Diego in support of Oceania Maritime Security Initiative (OMSI), Aug. 14.

OMSI is a Secretary of Defense program aimed to diminish transnational illegal activity on the high seas in the Pacific Island Nations of Oceania's exclusive economic zones (EEZ) and enhance regional security and interoperability with partner nations.

"Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing undermines efforts to conserve and manage global fish stocks,” said Lt. Kenji Awamura, Coast Guard 14th District response enforcement. “The goal of combined efforts by the Navy and Coast Guard through the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative mission is to deter these devastating practices. In partnership with Australia, New Zealand, France, and the Pacific Island Nations, OMSI further promotes economic and environmental stability throughout Oceania."

Through bilateral agreements, the U.S. Coast Guard assists 10 Pacific Island nations in patrolling the waters around their exclusive economic zones (EEZs). Each of the nations has territorial waters stretching out 12 miles from shore. Beyond that, stretching out 200 nautical miles are EEZs, an area defined by national law that allows each nation exclusive rights to the exploration and use of maritime resources.

"Our crew is very excited to take part in the OMSI mission," said Cmdr. John Ryan, commanding officer of Rushmore. "Working in tandem with the U.S. Coast Guard is a new experience for us, which will continue to demonstrate how the extensive range of U.S. Navy assets provides critical support to the embarked boarding teams in their mission of enforcing fishery laws.”

During this OMSI patrol, maritime law enforcement officers will use Rushmore as a platform to intercept and board commercial fishing vessels operating in their respective EEZs. They will be assisted during these boardings by the embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (USCG LEDET) and will be looking for any potential fishing violations.

“Support of Pacific Island Nations is vital to ensuring these countries can protect their resources, allowing them to maintain regional stability and economic independence," said Ryan.

Rushmore, regional ship riders, and the U.S. Coast Guard will work together to conduct maritime law enforcement operations in support of U.S. and Pacific Island Nations fisheries laws and to suppress illicit activities. Upon completion of OMSI, Rushmore will return to San Diego.