The Indian Navy Information Fusion Center in the Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) will be gearing up for a new role after the Quad Summit today in Tokyo. According to reports, the United States aims to make the Indian Navy’s information centre play a key role in a Quad initiative against illegal fishing in the region.
Today’s Quad Summit will witness the four Quad leaders announce the synergy between the Singapore, India and Pacific watch centres using satellite technology to connect the centres to create a system for monitoring illegal fishing in the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. Besides India’s IFC-IOR and Singapore Navy’s Information Fusion Center, the Quad also has a presence in the Australian-sponsored Pacific Fusion Center established in 2019 in Port Vila, Vanuatu, as the data fusion centre involved in this initiative.
According to a U.S. official quoted in a Financial Times report, the system will enable the United States and its partners to monitor illegal fishing even during the event when the fishing boats have turned off transponders that are typically used to track maritime vessels. This, according to the United States, will help track and control illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUUF) fishing in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly by Chinese trawler fleets.
The threat of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUUF)
According to the IUU fishing index, China has the highest IUU score of 3.86. The index measures the degree to which countries are exposed to IUU fishing and combats it effectively. It provides a fishing score for all coastal states between one and five, with one being the best and five being the worst.
The United States alleges that China was responsible for 95% of illegal fishing in the Indo-Pacific. According to Charles Edel, Australian chairman of the U.S. think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, China has become the biggest perpetrator of illegal fishing in the world. “They have significantly depleted global fish stocks and undermined the traditional livelihoods of many countries, so any action taken to track, identify and curb such activity would have environmental and security benefits for the region,” he said.
Brookings – another US-based think tank – published an article last year that called the IUUF a “national security concern” that “may indeed become an increasingly important mission for the United States.” United and their security partners and allies around the world, and most certainly those in the Indo-Pacific.”
China boasts the largest fishing fleet in the world. China uses this fleet, to devastating effect, to meet its population’s enormous demand for protein. It also offers generous subsidies that have encouraged the rapid proliferation of large “deep water” capable vessels that can harvest staggering amounts of catch in a single voyage, often dragging the ocean floor without attributing importance to the type of fish, age or quantity limits. When working together in fleets, these ships are rapacious.
These fishing fleets have also been used to bully sovereign countries like in the case of the Philippines.
Indian surveillance facilities in the IOR
As a strategic partner of the United States, India has a role to play in the Quad to control this massive marine threat posed by China. Or more precisely, the Indian Navy does.
Established in 2018, the role of the Gurgaon-based IFC-IOR includes regional collaboration on maritime security issues such as “maritime terrorism”, IUUs, piracy, armed robbery on the high seas, human trafficking and contraband. According to government data, it has information-sharing links with 50 countries and multinational/maritime centres. The Indian Navy Information Center aims to track maritime traffic and critical developments in the Indian Ocean region in collaboration with like-minded countries.
The data fusion centre was established as part of the government’s SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region). In addition to working on indigenous data, it also hosts liaison officers from partner countries, including Australia, France, Japan, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S. Since its inception, the IFC-IOR has served as an extensive and comprehensive regional repository of maritime data.
Fishing in Indian Ocean Region
The importance of the Indian Ocean for the world fishing industry is small as the catches here are only 5% of the total. The main commercial fish of the local waters are tuna, sardine, anchovy, several species of sharks, barracudas and rays; shrimp, lobsters and lobsters are also caught here. Until recently, whaling, which was intensive in the southern regions of the ocean, is rapidly curtailing due to the almost complete extermination of some species of whales. On the northwestern coast of Australia, in Sri Lanka and the Bahrain Islands, pearls and mother-of-pearl are mined.