Maritime Law Enforcement is one of the Coast Guards oldest missions. Since the days of the Revenue Cutter Service, we have been the primary defenders of both domestic and international
maritime laws and treaties. Included in our many missions are Drug Interdiction, Fisheries Enforcement and Alien Migration Interdiction Operations.
Since returning form the Vietnam War, the Coast Guard has been fiercely combating the well-funded and pervasive flow of illegal drugs to the United States. The Coast Guard is the lead federal agency for maritime drug interdiction, and shares the responsibility of air interdiction with the US Customs Service. Our mission is to reduce the flow of illegal drugs by denying smugglers the use of air and maritime routes in the Transit Zone, a six million square mile area that includes the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Eastern Pacific. In an effort to meet this challenge, the Coast Guard coordinates with other federal agencies and countries in order to disrupt and deter the flow of illegal drugs. In addition to deterrence, Coast Guard drug interdiction accounts for nearly 25% of all seizures of cocaine and marijuana each year.
The U.S. Domestic Fisheries support a $24 billion dollar industry. In order to ensure the sustainability of these fisheries, the Coast Guard along with several other federal agencies monitor and enforce all applicable laws and regulations in order to advance the national goals for stewardship of living marine resources and their environment. The boundaries of this area, known as the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are the largest in the world, containing 3.3 million square miles of ocean and 90,000 miles of coastline. Often times foreign vessels operate illegally in this area and are, effectively, stealing resources from the U.S. The Coast Guard works to develop and enforce international fisheries agreements. Most notably, the Coast Guard enforces the United Nations High Seas Driftnet Moratorium in the North Pacific, where illegal drift netters may catch U.S. salmon.
The Coast Guard's role in migrant interdiction has been a part of our history since the Service's inception, but gained international attention during the mass migration emergency from Cuba between April 21 and September 28, 1980. Known as the Mariel Boatlift, over 124,000 undocumented Cuban migrants entered the United States by a flotilla of mostly U.S. registered vessels. The Coast Guard not only interdicted vessels en route to Mariel Harbor, they conducted numerous surface and air search and rescue missions. Between 1991 and 1995 there was a dramatic increase in undocumented migrants being interdicted by the Coast Guard, amounting to over 120,000 migrants from 23 countries. The Coast Guard's primary concern is to prevent the loss of life at sea, since the majority of migrant vessels are dangerously overloaded, unseaworthy or otherwise unsafe, and to protect individuals from political persecution and torture who are seeking asylum within our borders. Recently there has been a sharp increase in the number of migrants from Asia, most coming from the People's Republic of China.
In order to accomplish these missions the Coast Guard relies heavily on air support. The C-130 Hercules long flight endurance make them an excellent choice for these missions. Our aircrews, utilizing the latest in technology, can be found conducting patrols from the North Atlantic to the Caribbean throughout the year. These crews are tasked with supporting surface and other air assets, in the successful enforcement of the laws and treaties mentioned above, for the Coast Guard's entire Atlantic Area of operations.