Vienna (Austria), 27 August 2020 - Our oceans are a rich source of natural and economic resources that sustain millions of people worldwide. Fisheries crime perpetrated by organized criminal groups for financial gains have a devastating ecological, social and economic impact by threatening marine ecosystems and the communities that rely on them. Moreover, fisheries crime is estimated to cause the loss of billions of dollars (USD) every year.
To address the challenges associated to fisheries crime, the UNODC -World Customs Organization (WCO) Container Control Programme (CCP) launched a training package in 2017 as part of the UNODC "FishNET" project, funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). Through specialized trainings tailored to the specific needs of each region, the CCP brings together Port Control Units staff, fisheries agencies and the private sector to discuss fisheries crime, hence fostering stronger understanding and cooperation amongst stakeholders.
Some of the issues the training package addresses are the impact of fisheries crime, corruption, gender and law enforcement, and legal frameworks and policy. It also introduces “ContainerCOMM”, a secure communication tool that facilitates the encrypted exchange of sensitive information, including alert notices concerning the shipment of possible high-risk containers. As a result of these trainings, information sharing and cooperation are increasing between the different enforcement actors.
Since 2017, over 750 officers from East and West Africa, and South and Southeast Asia were trained through the FishNET project. Countries in those regions have reported several seizures, including the seizure in Viet Nam of 546 kilograms of CITES1-protected seahorses in 2018, and 2 tons of CITES-protected turtles in 2019, and the seizure in the Maldives of around 450 tons of fish. The Maldivian CCP unit also uncovered several cases of fraud by working more closely with law enforcement agencies.
In addition, FishNET activities help to promote gender equality, among other things by encouraging participation of women in its trainings in the male-dominated law enforcement sector. In the most recent CCP fisheries crime workshop held in Thailand in January 2020, over half of the training participants were women
Adapting to the current challenges surfacing from Covid-19, the Container Control Programme continues delivering online training and mentoring activities. The Maldives, Thailand, and Viet Nam recently received online mentoring in relation to fisheries crime and similar activities in other countries in South and Southeast Asia are currently being planned.
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1Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora