The group is committed to the policy objective of a “rules-based maritime order” in the Indo-Pacific, focusing on the flashpoint regions in the East China Sea and South China Sea.
The tracking initiative would be a significant development towards continuous cooperation, drawing on the work of surveillance centers in India and Singapore. According to the Financial Times, the initiative will enable Quad nations to monitor Chinese illegal fishing operations, even when the fishing vessels in question have disabled their AIS transponders.
China’s fishing fleet is the worst-ranked in the world on the Global Illegal Fishing Index, and Chinese trawlers and squid-jiggers have a long history of poaching in far-flung waters.
To date, fishing vessel tracking has focused mainly on AIS monitoring, like the large-scale effort conducted by Global Fishing Watch. The Quad’s program, as described by the Financial Times, would also cover fishing vessels without AIS.
This technical capability would be useful in monitoring the movements of China’s maritime militia, a hundreds-strong “fishing fleet” operated by Chinese paramilitary units under provincial government sponsorship.