Maritime security and illegal fishing: common problems, common solutions?

By Stop Illegal Fishing:2nd Mar, 2018: FISH-i Africa

The common links between maritime security threats and illegalities in the fisheries sector were amongst topics discussed at the SafeSeas High Level Symposium on Capacity Building for Maritime Security, held in Nairobi on March 2nd.

The piracy threat from Somalia has made the Western Indian Ocean a centre for innovation for maritime security with international naval forces providing operational and capacity building support, whilst development funding is establishing and supporting information sharing mechanisms.

Operations to stop illegal fishing tend to be the preserve of the coastal States in the region, but opportunities for fisheries enforcement to work more closely with the maritime security sector were addressed during the course of the meeting.

The overlapping nature of the threats posed by piracy, trafficking and illegal fishing as well as a similar complexity of actors, jurisdictions and responses suggest that greater coordination and information sharing would bring significant benefits.

As the countries of the Western Indian Ocean increasingly focus on the potential economic rewards that can be derived from the Blue Economy, the challenges and vulnerabilities created by a non-compliant fisheries sector become increasingly apparent. Recent investigations by FISH-i Africa demonstrate the persistent, systematic and deliberate non-compliance by a significant element of the operational fleet in the Western Indian Ocean. ‘Operation Jodari’, a joint at sea patrol undertaken between Tanzanian authorities, Sea Shepherd and FISH-i in January 2018 found forced labour, human rights abuses and illegal shark finning in three of the ten vessels inspected; indicating the lack of respect paid to conservation and management measures and national and international laws by many operators.

The limited capacity of coastal States to conduct surveillance in their exclusive economic zones has been well documented. The value of intelligence and information obtained by actors involved in maritime security operations could provide a valuable source of information to identify and sanction those involved in illegalities in the fisheries sector.

Per Erik Bergh, Stop Illegal Fishing Coordinator, speaking at the event, stated, “We welcome the chance to share our experience and look for opportunities for closer cooperation with the maritime security sector. The effective governance and security of industrial fisheries is key to managing challenges such as smuggling, trafficking and corruption.”

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