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Improving integrity in fisheries value chains of Southeast Asia


Bangkok (Thailand), 22 November 2017 - The commercial fishing sector in Southeast Asia is critical to regional food security but is also vulnerable to a wide variety of crimes due to its value chain and the complex web of actors involved.

To better understand the risks for corruption and economic crimes in particular, UNODC organised a technical meeting on 'Identifying risks of economic crimes and corruption in the fisheries sector in Southeast Asia'.

The meeting was held in Bangkok, Thailand from 19-21 November 2017, with the participation of 40 practitioners from anti-corruption agencies, law enforcement and fishery departments of Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, as well as representatives of the private sector and international organisations. It aimed to initiate the development of strategies to prevent, investigate and prosecute instances of corruption, fraud and forgery.

"Fisheries crimes are closely associated with economic crimes, and fisheries departments cannot tackle these issues alone," said Dr. Adisorn Promthep, Director General of the Thailand Department of Fisheries during the opening ceremony of the workshop. "Agencies need to work together, and we need to leverage the tools and assistance available to improve international cooperation on these issues."

The Thailand Department of Fisheries hosted a field trip to Samutsakorn Port, giving participants the opportunity to understand how Thailand is improving management and traceability of fish catch throughout the fisheries value chain with the implementation of an electronic data system. During the visit, Thai authorities also demonstrated some of the procedures in place to combat the exploitation of fishermen on vessels as well as human trafficking.

The field trip was followed by a two-day meeting during which countries shared case studies of their own traceability systems and economic crimes and corruption issues. Discussions highlighted the close association of tax evasion crimes with the fishing industry, which can cause significant economic losses for countries. Indonesia shared an example of one fishing company which had caused tax-revenue losses equivalent to more than 13 million USD per year, and another participant noted that this was one of the main issues that motivated a paradigm shift in the way Norway addresses fisheries crime.

"The biggest fisheries crime issues that Norway has faced in the last ten years are the associated money laundering and tax crimes," said Mr. Gunnar Stolsvik, Head of Project of the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries. "In response, Norway created a permanent multi-agency task force to focus on these crimes, which is underpinned with high level political support. We want to create a fairer and stronger global fishing industry, and to share our own experience on this issue with other countries."

Based on the integrity risks that each country identified in their own fisheries value chains, the workshop guided participants through a risk analysis process to start to determine points for intervention, and preventive measures and solutions that could be introduced to mitigate those risks.

"We must support countries impacted by fisheries crime to ensure they can effectively investigate, prosecute and sanction criminals who plunder our seas and threaten socio and economic development," said Mr. Jorge Rios, Chief of the UNODC Global Programme on Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime. "Moving forward from the workshop discussions, UNODC has identified some areas where we can provide technical assistance to governments in the region to improve integrity in the sector."

The private sector representatives at the workshop also acknowledged that change was crucial to protect the millions of people who depend on fish for their livelihoods and as a food source.

"We urgently need to make the fishing industry more sustainable", said Dr. Chanintr Chalisarapong, President of the Thai Tuna Industry Association. "It is crucial that Governments reduce the size of their fishing fleets and increase the proportion of small scale operators, to help reduce overfishing while improving livelihoods."

This workshop is part of FishNET, a four year UNODC programme aimed at enhancing the capacity of developing countries to address crimes in the fisheries value chain.

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on wildlife and forest crime in the region.