Minister of National Defense;
Secretary General of the Malagasy Armed Forces;
Chief of Staff of the Malagasy Armed Forces;
Chief of the Malagasy Navy;
Director General of the Malagasy Port, Maritime, and River Authority;
Ladies and gentlemen;
On behalf of the United States Embassy, it is my honor to welcome you to the Cutlass Express 2019 Main Planning Event.
The Western Indian Ocean presents challenges and opportunities for each of our countries. Its expansive and rich waters have become a haven for illicit trafficking in drugs, weapons, humans, and wildlife that undermines government control and threatens the prosperity of the region’s people. Gaps in national legal frameworks and enforcement mechanisms have also emboldened criminal actors and predatory nations to deploy vast fishing fleets to pursue illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing that robs the region of one of its most valuable resources and threatens its sustainability for future generations.
With your hard work in the week to come, Cutlass Express will give us the ability to come together and share best practices in enforcement and regulation to prevent disastrous national and regional consequences of continued exploitation. In finding ways to overcome these challenges and pursue a well-regulated Blue Economy, the governments and people of the region are poised to recapture hundreds of millions of dollars lost to criminal actors and foreign interests. Cutlass Express therefore represents a unique opportunity for us to cooperate on every aspect of maritime security – from vessel boarding to inter-agency coordination strategies – and deliver tangible benefits to each of our countries.
The United States is proud to assist in this effort to degrade the region’s trans-national criminal organizations, dissuade predatory foreign interests, and strengthen the prosperity of our regional partners. I thank you for your participation and hard work, and I look forward to our ongoing cooperation in this important endeavor.