FishFORCE Dialogue 2020

By Stop Illegal Fishing:20th Mar, 2020: FISH-i Africa · FishCRIME

Nelson Mandela University’s Fisheries Law Enforcement Academy – known as FishFORCE – hosted a two-day conference called the FishFORCE Dialogue at Nelson Mandela University (NMU) on 9 and 10 March 2020.

Delegates from a range of international and local agencies and organisations met to discuss strategies to fight against illegal fishing and fisheries crime.

Professor Hennie Van As, Head of FishFORCE and Director of NMU’s Institute of Sustainable Government and Development stated, “We are losing vital natural, economic and food resources through rampant fisheries crimes, yet insufficient attention is given to law enforcement in this environment.”

Van As called for marine resources to be protected in the same way that we protect our gold, or in the way we work to protect our rhino. He said, “While marine living resources are strictly regulated by law, the implementation, administration and enforcement fall woefully short. Police do not view fisheries crimes as priority crimes. And, by and large, the penalties for fisheries crime are not having a deterrent effect.”

South African State Prosecutor, Martin le Roux, speaking at the event commented, “All police and fisheries enforcement agencies should be required to apply an organised crime lens in collecting evidence, and to train and equip officers accordingly. This requires a far greater depth of understanding at the highest political levels as to what organised crime is and the effect it has on the country.”

Per Erik Bergh, Stop Illegal Fishing, provided insight from investigations into illegal fishing and fisheries crime conducted by the FISH-i Africa Task Force, which have highlighted links to forced labour, vessel identity fraud and the smuggling of illegal goods.

Noting the recent adoption of Africa’s Blue Economy Strategy by the African Union, Mr Bergh stated, “While global attention is focussed on developing ocean economies, we must take the opportunity to embed sustainability as a core principle of blue growth. The pressure to increase national revenues from the licensing or registration of fishing vessels must be considered alongside State responsibilities to monitor and control these vessels, and the very real risks associated with fleets, vessels and operators that have a track record of non-compliance.”

FishFORCE, Africa’s first fisheries law enforcement academy, was launched in 2016 with the aim of improving the investigation and prosecution of fisheries crime globally, with a special focus on Africa.

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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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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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