The fishing industry is a large economic activity, conducted on a global scale. It provides work opportunity and food supply for billions of people. The possibility of criminal activities carried out in the fishing industry has been of concern to international agencies, government enforcement officials and the research and NGO community for some time.
The UNODC report Drug Trafficking as a Security Threat in West Africa of 2008 pointed out that transshipments at sea is a common method in which to transfer and transport drugs to West Africa. The use of fishing vessels happens also in relation to smuggling of migrants; illicit traffic in weapons; piracy; transport of terrorists and smuggling of wildlife.
A number of reports from amongst others the International Labour Office (ILO), the United Nations Inter- Agency Project (UNIAP), and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) over the last decade suggests that the conditions of crew, including children, working on board fishing vessels are of concern. The problem seems to be that crew on board fishing vessels are, quite literally, 'out of sight, out of mind'.
UNODC initiated a study as part of its Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants Issue Papers Series on the occurrence of Transnational Organized Crime in the Fishing Industry. The study posed the questions whether there is transnational organized crime and other criminal activity in the fishing industry and, if so, what the vulnerabilities of the fishing industry are to transnational organized crime or other criminal activity. Importantly the study did not set out to tarnish the fishing industry. Rather, the study sought to determine whether criminal activities take place within the fishing industry to the detriment of law-abiding fishers, the legitimate fishing industry, local fishing communities and the general public alike.
The research took the form of a six-month desk review of available literature, supplemented by ad hoc consultations and a two-day expert consultation held in Vienna, Austria.
The study will be launched at a side event of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice on Wednesday 13 April, 1-3pm, Conference Room M0E79.