Large scale criminal activity in the fisheries sector is rampant and highly lucrative. With these crimes frequently being of a transnational and largely organized nature, the sector is vulnerable to multiple issues including illegal fishing, corruption, document fraud, and human trafficking. The reality, as evidenced by a number of cases, is that fisheries offences – such as illegal fishing – are just one of various criminal activities, which are often organized and largely committed transnationally along the entire value chain of a specific group of products in trade, namely fish and fish products.
UNODC, together with WWF, recently convened a meeting in Vienna to address fisheries crime through the criminal justice system, extending beyond the traditional realm of fisheries control and compliance. The Expert Group Meeting on Fisheries Crime brought together law enforcement, legal, academic, policy, and technical experts from around the world to contribute towards a better understanding of fisheries crime and discuss the potential responses by all parties.
At the event, UNODC Deputy Executive Director, Aldo Lale-Demoz, spoke of the transnational nature of fisheries crime and the need for a coordinated international response: “Fisheries crime is highly organized. It cannot be tackled by a single country without cooperation, nor can it be tackled using only traditional compliance measures.” For her part, WWF’s Marine Manager, Jessica Battle, remarked: “The days when it was appropriate to write off such offences as ‘it’s just fish’ are long gone. Destroying the resource base upon which individuals, households and communities rely is a serious matter.” Experts also discussed the need to address illegal fishing and other fisheries crimes from a criminal law enforcement angle in addition to the traditional fisheries management approach.
UNODC works in strengthening transnational cooperation and inter agency coordination to assist countries to better identify, investigate and prosecute fisheries crime. At the Expert Group Meeting, action-oriented recommendations for tackling fisheries crime were promoted – including an improved use of tools and mechanisms already available, and the development of the necessary practical new law enforcement and criminal justice responses around the world.