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Nairobi, 6 September - On 4-6 September, the UNODC Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime (GPWLFC) convened a Global Training Workshop to enhance the capacity of investigators and prosecutors on crimes in the fisheries value chain. The training built on a previous workshop held in September 2018 in Vienna and gathered prosecutors and investigators from 11 countries of Africa, Asia and the Indian Ocean. The workshop included in-depth discussions, case studies and interactive training methodologies to promote innovative investigation and prosecution strategies, stimulate exchanges of good practices and lessons learned and encourage further international cooperation in this field.

"We should never forget that fisheries crime has significant ecological, social and economic adverse impacts" stressed the Norwegian Ambassador in Nairobi, H.E. Elin Bergithe Rognlie, in her opening remarks. "Transnational and organized criminal networks have been found to be involved in fisheries crime, fuelling other criminal activities such as human, drugs and arms trafficking as well as many forms of economic crime including corruption, fraud, money-laundering and tax evasion.", she added.

The global fishing industry is a highly profitable industry covering a wide range of activities, actors and authorities, usually involving multiple countries and jurisdictions. Hence, the sector is vulnerable to criminal activities occurring in different stages of the value chain, both on- and off-shore and frequently in combination.

Jorge Eduardo RĂ­os, Chief of UNODC's Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime, emphasized that many crimes in the fisheries value chain continue to be unrecognized. "Our new Guide on Addressing Corruption in the Fisheries Sector (" Rotten Fish") is being used at this workshop to help States undertake a national analysis of the risks and vulnerabilities in their fisheries value chain and assist them in building evidence-based strategies and mechanisms to reduce vulnerabilities."

Discussions evidenced that while many countries have legislation in place to address many types of fisheries crime beyond Illegal, Underreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, very few have developed capacities to effectively investigate and prosecute the full range of economic crimes occurring along the fisheries value chain, such as corruption, fraud, money-laundering and tax evasion. As a result, the focus of criminal investigations and prosecutions often remains on IUU offences such as unauthorized fishing and the use of illegal fishing techniques. Other common challenges identified by participants include limited inter-agency cooperation and limited use of international cooperation tools that may facilitate the investigation and prosecution of fisheries crime.

During the workshop, Elizabeth Rose Amidjogbe stressed the importance of FAO's continued collaboration with UNODC to bring attention to these serious threats to the marine resources of the world. "Such trainings provide opportunities for our organizations to equip and empower Member States to protect their resources from IUU fishing and related economic crimes, with a view to helping them realize the full benefits of their resources" she said.

Participants highlighted good practices in place in their countries, including the use of broader criminal legislation on human trafficking or anti-forgery to successfully prosecute illegal fishing in the absence of specific provisions on fisheries crime. Capacity building tools, such as the Rapid Reference Guide and standard operating procedures developed by Kenya in June 2019, can provide helpful guidance to investigators and prosecutors of fisheries crime. For Marindah Berryl, Prosecution Counsel at the Office of Kenya's Director of Public Prosecution, "the RRG is a great tool that provides our investigators and prosecutors with key inputs on what charges to press under what law, in addition to exploring the ancillary powers at their disposal".

Among other key recommendations outlined during the workshop, international experts stressed the need for investigators and prosecutors to start looking into ownership structures of fishing companies and into the range of financial services associated with the fishing sector. They also encouraged prosecutors to be bold and daring when initiating investigations, even when the legislation in place contains gaps or unclear provisions as to the methods and techniques that can be used, with a view to gradually building a jurisprudence and raising awareness of judges and law-makers on the importance of tackling the whole array of crimes occurring along the fisheries value chain.

To address some of these challenges, UNODC initiated in 2017 the FishNET project, a joint undertaking by the Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime (GPWLFC) and the Global Container Control Programme (CCP) funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). The FishNET project addresses fisheries crime from various angles - awareness-raising, support to Member States in the review of legal frameworks and policies, and capacity building for relevant criminal justice practitioners and fisheries authorities. Further trainings will be organized in this framework over the next years.