Illegal fishing often goes beyond non-compliance of fisheries laws; it is complex, serious, transnational and organised. This is known as ‘fisheries crime’ and it incorporates links between illegal fishing and crimes such as tax evasion, human rights abuse including human trafficking, drug, wildlife, diamond and arms smuggling, fraud and pollution. Through understanding and drawing the links between these fisheries and related crimes we will find ways to bring those responsible to justice.
Cooperation between the different authorities involved, across sectors and countries, with support from international analytical and investigative experts, will help identify the perpetrators and find options to prosecute within whichever legislation and country is possible.
The following are practical examples of fisheries crime:
- illegal fisheries activities that include multiple vessels sharing one identify and thus violating a maritime law;
- illegal fish that is whitewashed into legal catches thus violating a trade law;
- key documents, such as fishing licences, that are fraudulent thus violating a flag State criminal law;
- use of a fishing vessel to transport drugs or people thus violating criminal or labour laws;
- or the failure of owners of multi-billion USD fishing operations to pay their taxes thus violating revenue or taxation laws.
Broadening the view of illegal fishing to include fisheries crime and investigating these global, highly organised and well-financed transnational crimes and criminals offers a pathway to justice via intercepting some of the most destructive illegal fishing networks and prosecuting the individuals controlling them. In order to put this into practice, fisheries experts and practitioners need to engage with the police, judiciary, customs, tax, port, security and labour authorities to gather and share information, intelligence and knowledge and to pool investigative resources.
Stop Illegal Fishing organised the First International Symposium on FishCRIME in Cape Town, South Africa in October 2015. This was a joint initiative of the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Stop Illegal Fishing, PescaDOLUS and the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries.
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