JUNEAU (AP) -- A U.S. Coast Guard admiral and a Russian general are meeting this week about policing the maritime border in the Bering Sea, a hotbed of illegal high-seas fishing.
Rear Adm. Thomas J. Barrett, commander of the 17th Coast Guard District, extended an invitation to Lt. Gen. Nikolai Lisinsky and other senior military officers of the Russian Federal Border Service to visit Alaska.
Lisinsky recently assumed command of air, land and naval forces on Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula.
''This was a high priority of Admiral Barrett to initiate this kind of personal relationship, to improve cooperation,'' said Capt. Vince O'Shea. O'Shea said Barrett wanted to continue international efforts to deal with the frequent incursions of fishing boats across the border into U.S. waters.
In 1999, there were 90 intercepted illegal crossings of the border. There have been only 26 this year. In 1999, there were no seizures of foreign vessels. This year there have been six, with four cooperative boardings.
O'Shea said those numbers prove the that the push for cooperation begun in April is working.
The two chief issues under discussion are protecting pollock and sovereignty, Barrett said.
Because catch rates of pollock on the Russian side of the border are less than on the U.S. side, ''It's the fish that drive the pressure on the boundary.''
The area of particular emphasis, Barrett said, is the 60 miles of border just north of ''the doughnut hole'' -- an area of unregulated territory surrounded by U.S. and Russian waters.
Seventy percent of the world's total pollock harvest comes from this area of the Pacific. The U.S. harvest is worth $1 billion, Barrett said
Lisinsky and his staff arrived in Kodiak on Sunday. He and Barrett toured the border on a Coast Guard ship earlier in the week.
On Wednesday, with the aid of three translators, the two officers discussed joint search-and-rescue operations in the North Pacific and streamlining the adjudication process on both sides after vessels are seized.
Lisinsky and Barrett flew to Anchorage this morning to meet with Coast Guard, Air Force and Army officials, tour military facilities, and sign documents on enforcement cooperation.
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