Landmark study demonstrates serious security threat posed by illegal fishing

By Stop Illegal Fishing:20th Jul, 2017: FISH-i Africa

The Royal Services Institute (RUSI) Occasional Paper ‘Below the Surface: How Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Threatens Our Security’ provides a critical analysis of current understandings of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing as threats to our security. It argues that IUU fishing largely takes place on a systematic and industrial scale, across multiple jurisdictions, as a form of transnational organised crime.

Tony Long, Director of the Ending Illegal Fishing Project at The Pew Charitable Trusts chaired the event and welcomed the publication. “This is a landmark study that demonstrates clearly that illegal fishing is not just a fisheries management issue.”

Speaking at the launch event Cathy Haenlein, RUSI Research Fellow in Serious and Organised Crime, and author of the report, suggests there is a big disconnect between how IUU is seen and how it plays in practice. “IUU fishing is not generally conducted by individual fishers acting in isolation and opportunistically; IUU operators employ sophisticated techniques in a purposeful way that is both planned and systematic.”

Steve Trent of the Environmental Justice Foundation described the extent of systematic slavery that has taken place in the Thai fishing industry. “Workers from Malaysia and Cambodia have been tricked or forced into working on Thai vessels. On board they experience profound levels of extreme violence at the hands of the Captains who seek control over the crew.”

Peter Hammarstedt highlighted the 2017 operations of Sea Shepherd in the Gulf of Guinea that have led to the arrest of several vessels fishing and transhipping illegally and employing forged documents and vessel identity fraud.  “The need for a regionally coordinated approach is clear. After a couple of months of Sea Shepherd operating in the Liberian EEZ all the vessels disappeared from Liberian waters. We know they didn’t stop fishing, they just moved their operations to neighbouring countries where there was lower risk of being caught.”

Elsa Patria of Stop Illegal Fishing and Stephen Roberts of EU NAVFOR discussed the case of the GREKO 1, a Belize flagged trawler fined for fishing illegally in Somali waters. FISH-i Africa investigations into the identity of the vessel found that the GREKO1 and her sister ship the GREKO 2 had been officially decommissioned and scrapped under an EU capacity reduction scheme shortly before beginning fishing activity in Somali waters. Elsa Patria stated, “The operations of these vessels demonstrate the negative effects of displacement of fishing capacity and show how illegal operators deliberately target and exploit countries with weak governance and low enforcement capacity.”

Sandy Davies of Stop Illegal Fishing welcomed the report, “this report provides a timely compilation of the mounting evidence that in some oceans industrial IUU fishing is organised, systematic and crossing various jurisdictions. Our evidence from cases spanning the last four years in the Western Indian Ocean supports the RUSI claims: we see cases with a plethora of illegalities and crimes that together result in fishing operators illegally catching fish in our EEZs, while denying taxes to their homelands, often abusing crew and flouting safety requirements. The RUSI recommendations require cooperation not least between coastal and flag States, an area that FISH-i Africa has prioritised and is working to achieve.”

The report can be downloaded at: https://rusi.org/publication/occasional-papers/below-surface-how-illegal-unreported-and-unregulated-fishing-threatens

 

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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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