porting and selling that catch, the figure climbs to
about $13 billion in economic impact annually in
New England alone. By comparison, the Coast
Guard’s entire budget is approximately $10 billion
“It’s a huge industry in New England and it’s a historic industry, too,” said CDR Kurt Virkaitis, assistant
branch chief with the First District’s office of Law
Enforcement. “People have been fishing in New
England since the settlers came here, and before that.
There’s a lot of history tied to it as well with fishing
communities. It’s ingrained in the culture of New
“When we do fisheries enforcement, we are actually
out there enforcing the commercial regulations on the
people who bring catch in that people buy at market.
There is a recreational component as well that we
enforce, but the primary thing is the commercial fisheries,” he said.
“What does that mean? That means us flying overhead making sure they’re not in the wrong place at the
wrong time. It’s doing [vessel] boardings to make sure
that their gear is compliant and they have all the
required safety equipment so that they’re out there as
safe as they can possibly be in a very dangerous industry to begin with.
“Also,” he added, echoing Caputo’s comments, “to
level the playing field between fishermen to make sure
they’re all abiding by the same rules, so that one per-
son doesn’t gain an advantage over another and, obvi-
ously, to preserve the fishery for the next generation,
and for next year in some cases.”
The Coast Guard enforces fisheries laws under the
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Manage-
ment Act that was passed in 1976 establishing the EEZ
and extending exclusive rights out to 200 nautical
miles for fisheries and other natural resources. The act
has been revised and reauthorized several times since,
and Congress is in the process of doing so again. The
“Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing
Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act,” introduced
by the House Natural Resources Committee in May,
would revise and reauthorize Magnuson-Stevens
through fiscal 2018.
The service’s own Ocean Steward and Ocean
Guardian strategic plans — both of which were updated in 2014 — provide a framework for safeguarding
protected species and enforcing living marine
resources regulations. The service also works in coordination with numerous other agencies on the federal,
state and local level in conducting its enforcement and
17 WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / JULY/AUGUST 2015
A Coast Guard Station Boston crew transits between the 270-foot Famous-class Medium-Endurance Cutters Escanaba
and Spencer on its way out on patrol Nov. 24. Small boats and patrol boats are the primary assets for Coast Guard
fisheries and living marine resource enforcement efforts close to shore. Farther out, to the extent of the U.S. Exclusive
Economic Zone, the service uses a combination of air assets — helicopters and patrol planes — and its fleet of Medium-and High-Endurance Cutters and the new National Security and Fast Response Cutters.