SOUTHCOM Support to Operation Southern Cross

U.S. Southern Command supported the deployment of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stone during Operation Southern Cross, a deployment to the South Atlantic to counter Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) fishing while strengthening relationships for maritime sovereignty and security throughout the region. IUU Fishing is a threat to our partner nations’ sovereignty. It negatively impacts overall security, food security, economics, and the environment.

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Operation Southern Cross was conducted in conjunction with SOUTHCOM. The crew of the USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) deployed from Pascagoula, Mississippi, Dec. 22, 2020, for the mission. Stone completed the deployment March 1. 2021

Taking the newly-accepted cutter on its shakedown cruise, Stone's crew covered over 21,000 miles (18,250 nautical miles) over 68 days. A mutual interest in combating IUUF activities offered an opportunity to collaborate for Stone's crew. They interacted with partners in Guyana, Brazil, Uruguay, and Portugal, strengthening relationships and laying the foundation for increased partnerships to counter illicit maritime activity.

This was the Coast Guard's first patrol to the South Atlantic in recent memory, engaging partners including Guyana, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Portugal. The cutter also embarked an observer from the Portuguese navy for the operation’s duration.

About IUU Fishing

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing has replaced piracy as the leading global maritime security threat. By undermining international agreements and fisheries conservation measures, this criminal activity jeopardizes global food security, destabilizes the economic security of coastal States, and violates state sovereignty.

"IUU fishing threatens fish stock's health and adversely impacts those who follow global norms and national laws. This is a global issue, and IUU is a problem too big for any one nation. Only by working together can we protect livelihoods, ensure ports remain economically productive, and support and sustainable fisheries industry," Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area.

  • Nearly half the world’s population relies on fish for 20 percent of their animal protein. IUU fishing removes access to this valuable protein source, particularly to the most vulnerable coastal States.
  • The first sale value of global fish production in 2018 stands at $401 billion. IUU Fishing results in tens of billions of dollars of lost revenue to legal fishers every year.
  • Of the world’s top marine fish stocks, 93 percent classified as fully exploited, overexploited, or significantly depleted. IUU fishing undermines the sustainable management of these resources, pushing them to the limits of their capacity.
  • It is about more than fishing, it is a threat to the United States.
  • Cooperative enforcement of international norms is key to tackling IUU fishing, and the U.S. Coast Guard is leading U.S. interagency efforts with international partners and maritime stakeholders as part of a comprehensive solution.
  • When the U.S. speaks with coastal partner nations this is in their top three if not the top of their list of security concerns; it threatens their national security by negatively impacting their economies and the environment.
  • Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing by Chinese fleets threatens local economies and destroys ecological areas, such as the Galápagos marine reserve.  
  • The Department of Defense stands with our partners in calling attention to this destructive activity and supports the upholding of international norms.  
  • Networks supporting illegal fishing may also be involved in other illicit activity and transnational crime, including human rights abuse, forced labor, tax evasion, and trafficking of weapons and drugs.
  • Keys to tackling IUU fishing include finding ways to eliminate incentives that drive IUU fishing, ensuring that states effectively monitor and control their fishing vessels, and building capacity for enforcement and good governance. 

In September 2020, the Coast Guard released the Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported Fishing Strategic Outlook, which reaffirms our commitment to global maritime security, regional stability, and economic prosperity.

Importance of Partnerships to Mission

The U.S. Coast Guard values its global partnerships with countries committed to robust maritime governance.  Operation Southern Cross will utilize the recently signed information-sharing agreement with the Brazilian Navy to drive counter-IUU fisheries enforcement operations.  The new maritime law enforcement agreement with Guyana enables combined patrols.  Permanent agreements underpin interoperability efforts to combat IUU fishing, and other maritime crime, across the world.

The U.S. Coast Guard will deepen its relationship with the Argentine Naval Prefecture and forge new operating relationships with the Uruguayan National Naval Prefecture.  Argentina and Uruguay are both key Atlantic partners in combatting IUU fishing.

By embarking a Portuguese observer, the U.S. Coast Guard opens a new line of maritime partnership between NATO allies to pursue robust maritime governance in the Atlantic. The U.S. Coast Guard remains committed to conducting operations and combined maritime exercises throughout the Atlantic, ensuring mission capacity and future force readiness. Training with partners and allied nations ensures all countries are ready, relevant, and responsive in an ever-evolving maritime environment. 

About USCGC Stone

USCGC Stone is the new Legend-class national security cutter, one of the U.S. Coast Guard’s flagships. Operation Southern Cross is the cutter’s initial shakedown cruise following its delivery in November. 

NSCs are 418 feet (127 meters) long with a 54-foot beam and displace 4,500 tons with a full load. They have a top speed of 28 knots, a range of 12,000 miles, an endurance of 60 days, and a crew of around 120.