Fisheries crime: bringing to light the perfect storm of illegal activities in the fishing sector

During this year's Crime Commission in Vienna, a panel of experts looked at the best approaches to deal with transnational organized fisheries crime. Photo: UNODC25 May 2016 - Fisheries crime is an ill-defined legal concept referring to a range of illicit activities in the fisheries sector, including illegal fishing, document fraud, drug trafficking, and money laundering, among others. While often transnational and organized in nature, fisheries crime has tended to receive insufficient attention by the international community precisely because it is not well  understood as a crime. As a result, properly coordinated criminal law enforcement responses have been insufficient.

At a discussion on the margins of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) taking place this week in Vienna, a panel of experts looked at the best approaches to deal with fisheries crime. The exchange of ideas focussed on practical criminal law enforcement tools and mechanisms that can be used to tackle transnational organized crime in the sector.

During the event, UNODC Deputy Executive Director, Aldo Lale-Demoz, spoke of the need to address fisheries crimes from a criminal law enforcement angle which complements the traditional fisheries regulation and management approach.

"UNODC," he added, "focuses on tools which are used to address organized fisheries crime from a broader law enforcement and criminal justice system perspective." As an example of this approach, he mentioned how financial investigations can be developed to uncover broader criminal networks and reveal beneficial ownership structures in the fisheries sector."

As a co-host of the event, Norway's Deputy Minister of Fisheries, Ronny Berg, highlighted his country's continued support for UNODC's work against transnational organized fisheries crime. "We believe that this is an important step forward towards a truly global response to this serious problem", he added.

Organized criminal organizations engage in fisheries crime with relative impunity due both to low risk and high profits and uncoordinated, ineffective domestic and cross-border law enforcement efforts. To address this, a number of initiatives have been put forward.

Coinciding with the CCPCJ event, UNODC unveiled a new awareness raising campaign. Aimed at drawing attention among policy makers, Government officials and the general public regarding the nature of fisheries crime, it also covers possible actions that can be carried out at the national, regional and global levels to stem transnational organized criminal activities within the fisheries sector.

Other UNODC initiatives, such as the Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime, the Global Maritime Crime Programme, the Global Programme on Money Laundering and the Container Control Programme implemented with the World Customs Organization, can be tailored to improve intelligence-led domestic and cross-border cooperative law enforcement efforts against fisheries crime. This has been done in coordination with other international organizations, such as INTERPOL, OECD, WWF and the FAO, which has helped to enhance information and intelligence sharing and to better coordinate international operations.

Concluding his remarks, Mr. Lale-Demoz stressed the importance of placing law enforcement efforts against fisheries crime in the framework of sustainable national development. "Only in this way," he noted, "can law enforcement complement, help and improve the economic and social conditions of affected communities and at the same time have an impact on transnational organized crime occurring in the fisheries sector."

Further information:

UNODC Fisheries Crime campaign

25th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ)

Programme of events during the 25th Crime Commission

Global Programme on Wildlife and Forest Crime