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UNODC and partners foster transnational cooperation to combat fisheries crime

Bangkok (Thailand), 19 August 2020
- Our oceans are a rich source of natural and economic resources that sustain millions of people around the world. However, while many make use of these resources responsibly, others take advantage of inefficient controls, jurisdictional issues and limited international cooperation, by engaging in a broad range of illegal activities associated with the fisheries sector. These activities, such as illegal fishing, corruption, money laundering, and document, tax and customs fraud, are frequently transnational and organized in nature, and are typically linked to other criminal activities. Besides financing organized criminal groups, fisheries crime also has a devastating ecological, social and economic impact. In fact, fisheries crime is estimated to cause the loss of billions of US dollars yearly, and it also poses existential threats to marine ecosystems and to the communities that rely on these ecosystems. This particularly true in South and Southeast Asia, where there are serious concerns that fish stocks are already beginning to collapse, which could endanger food security and employment on a massive scale. In Southeast Asia alone, the fisheries sector generates several billion in GDP and is a major source of food and livelihood for hundreds of millions of people.

To address this challenge, the CCP launched a training package in 2017 as part of the UNODC "FishNET" project, funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). The CCP component seeks to enhance awareness on how the containerized trade supply chain may be exploited in the context of fisheries crime. Through specialized trainings focusing on a plethora of elements related to fisheries crime and tailored to each region’s specific needs, the Programme brings together working-level officers from CCP Port Control Units, institutions involved in the fisheries sector and other relevant actors to discuss fisheries crime in their respective countries. The overall aim is to raise awareness and improve inter-agency cooperation.

The training addresses a wide range of issues, including the impact of fisheries crime, corruption, gender and law enforcement, and legal frameworks and policy, while introducing ContainerCOMM as an effective tool to collect, store, analyze and share data at the operational level. The result is an increase in information sharing and cooperation between the enforcement actors at the working level. By involving the private sector and non-governmental organizations in the workshops, the Programme also helps foster a stronger understanding amongst stakeholders on how to work collectively to address fisheries crime.

“The interagency concept promoted by the Container Control Programme is particularly evident in CCP activities under the FishNET initiative. Because fisheries crime is so broad, law enforcement agencies really need to collaborate together with the relevant Government ministries, with private sector entities and their foreign counterparts. Together, we can adopt the holistic approach necessary to tackle this important issue. The Thai Customs Department is proud to have played a key role in FishNET efforts in our region over the past few years, and we hope to continue to build on this partnership in the future.”
Mr. Boonma Siritharangsri, Director of Bangkok Port Customs Office

Since the implementation of the CCP component, the Programme has delivered training to over 750 officers from East and West Africa, and South and Southeast Asia. In the latter two regions, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam have all participated in several training activities and are actively countering fisheries crime. The countries have reported several seizures, including two seizures by CCP units in Viet Nam of 546 kilograms of CITES-protected seahorses in 2018 and 2 tons of CITES-protected turtles in 2019. Since receiving FishNET training, the CCP unit in the Maldives has seized around 450 tons of fish, as well as uncovering several cases of fraud, and has also begun working more closely with other law enforcement agencies on the issue of fisheries crime. However, the impact of FishNET goes beyond seizure data. FishNET activities are also helping to promote gender equality. In the most recent CCP fisheries crime workshop held in Thailand, in January 2020, over half of the training participants were women. This is a significant point, especially because both the fisheries and law enforcement sectors are often dominated by men.

While the current challenges presented by the Covid-19 situation have required the Programme to make adjustments to projected activities, CCP has been able to guarantee the continuous delivery of training and mentoring through online modalities. The Maldives and Viet Nam recently received online mentoring in relation to fisheries crime. Similar activities in other countries in South and Southeast Asia are currently being planned.

The CCP is committed to protecting our oceans and everyone affected by fisheries crime around the world, and the FishNET CCP component’s proven to be an effective methodology to achieve this goal.

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