Governments urged to tackle organised crime in the fisheries sector

Governments must urgently crack down on organised crimes such as tax evasion and human trafficking that are taking place under the cover of the global fisheries industry, according to a new paper.

The “blue paper” published by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, an initiative by 14 world leaders, puts a spotlight on the crimes associated with global fisheries, beyond illegal fishing.

It argues that unless these crimes are tackled, they will “undermine the global commitment to sustainable development and the realisation of a sustainable ocean economy”.

Crimes include money laundering, tax evasion, corruption and drug and human trafficking which occur throughout the whole fisheries value chain: onshore, at sea, in coastal regions and online.

The paper says these crimes have huge impacts on the wider economy, depriving states of national revenue and threatening the livelihoods of those that rely on the fisheries sector.

Critically, these crimes tend to be carried out in the world’s most vulnerable regions “with the least resources to prevent and combat it”. The authors say that the perpetrators are companies with complex operational activities in many countries.

Action points

Fisheries management alone cannot adequately respond to the criminal challenges identified in the fisheries sector, say the authors.

To address crimes fully, the paper suggests that states should first build a shared understanding of the problem globally and then undertake “intelligence-led, skills-based cooperative law enforcement at the domestic level facilitated by enabling legislative frameworks and increased transparency.”

To date there is no statistical data that’s publically available that estimates the extent of organised crime in the sector, or mapping incidents of its location at a global level. Data mostly focuses on illegal and unreported (IUU) fishing.

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With no spotlight on them, perpetrators have free reign to do what they like. By talking, learning and sharing similar stories we can help elevate public awareness which can increase the likelihood of governments tackling the issues.

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