Corruption and illegal fishing: connections and solutions

By Stop Illegal Fishing:22nd Sep, 2020: FISH-i Africa

A virtual panel discussion examining the links between corruption and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, organised by the Targeting Natural Resource Corruption (TNRC) project took place on 27 August 2020. The webinar focused on learning and approaches that global practitioners can consider to protect marine resources, address governance challenges, and safeguard rights.

Sally Yozell, Senior Fellow and Director, Environmental Security, Stimson Center noted that in the world of fisheries the chains of ownership and responsibility are particularly opaque because of the anonymity of beneficial ownership of vessels, use of flags of convenience, secrecy of access agreements and complexity of the seafood supply chain. She stated, “Effective seafood traceability could make huge difference. We need to keep the pressure up and make sure that treaties and laws are actually implemented and that there is funding for capacity building. Also, following-the-money is crucial. South America is an example where drug traffickers are getting into the seafood business to launder drug profits.”

Dr. Tabitha Grace Mallory, Founder of the China Ocean Institute discussed the role of China in IUU fishing. The differences between agendas for the highly controlled, sustainability driven domestic fleet and the operations of the distant water fishing fleet were highlighted. Changes are being made, with international media attention and pressure catalysing political responses. She commented, “We need to bring more attention to these issues through media, investigative reporting and research. Countries react to negative stories, but we need to acknowledge positive steps as well.”

Forced labour is frequently associated with the fishing industry. Made up of 3D jobs that are ‘dirty, difficult, and dangerous’ the industry is economically precarious, based on state subsidies, artificially low prices, little industry oversight and low safeguards for labour. Ame Sagiv, Humanity United stressed that there are solutions: “Transparency and supply chain mapping; vessel monitoring; rigorous port inspections; real penalties for perpetrators; regulation of recruiters and brokers; collective bargaining rights and unions. Technology can be a useful tool, but is not the sole solution. All of these issues go back to the basic business model where prices are kept artificially low and cost is the main driver of sourcing decisions.”

Per Erik Bergh, Stop Illegal Fishing drew on case material from the FISH-i Africa Task Force to identify how and why corruption is taking place. It was noted that even in countries where corruption is widespread, there are individuals in government who are working hard to promote sustainability, transparency and improved fisheries practices. He concluded, “We need to find these champions, provide them with long-term training and support, and empower them to make a difference in their countries. We need to not just criticize, but also provide incentives and capacity to do the right thing. Work at the local level to shine a light on champions and politician who are promoting sustainable fisheries. Task forces can create pressure to improve transparency and fight corruption.”

The panel was attended virtually by practitioners based in over thirty countries. Slides and the recording are available here.

 

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One in four fish in Africa is caught illegally, this threatens the sustainability of fish stocks, damages the ecosystem and deprives governments of income and people of livelihoods.

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Our Approach

Creating change by informing policy and practice, our hands on experience and investigative work means we are often the first to spot new trends and find ways to challenge these.

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Our Initiatives

Illegal fishing is a complex issue that requires multifaceted responses. Stop Illegal Fishing are working with a range of organisations to bring about change.

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