Fisheries Crime: Bridging the Gap

‘Fish piracy’ and Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) a huge issue.

Fisheries Crime: Bridging the Gap

Op-Ed by Dr Mary Ann Palma-Robles

Fisheries crime is a major and increasingly significant threat not only to the security of the maritime environment but also to the sustainability of marine living resources. In a study conducted by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on transnational criminal activities in the fishing industry, it was highlighted that:

•    Fishers trafficked for the purpose of forced labor on board fishing vessels are severely abused;
•    There is frequency of child trafficking in the fishing industry;
•    Transnational organized criminal groups are engaged in marine living  resource crimes in relation to high value, low volume species such as abalone;
•    Some transnational fishing operators launder illegally caught fish through transhipments at sea and fraudulent catch documentation;
•    Fishing licensing and control system is vulnerable to corruption;
•    Fishing vessels are used for the purpose of smuggling of migrants, illicit traffic in drugs (primarily cocaine), illicit traffic in weapons, and acts of terrorism; and
•    Fishers are often recruited by organized criminal groups due to their skills and knowledge of the sea and are seldom masterminds behind organized criminal activities involving the fishing industry or fishing vessels.

Some of the specific incidents of transnational crime in fisheries include the hijacking of the MV Kuberfor the purpose of transporting terrorists and arms into Mumbai; hijacking of fishing vessels and involvement of fishers in piracy attacks in the western Indian ocean; smuggling of weapons into off the coast of the Red Sea; human trafficking for the purpose of forced labor in Thailand fishing industry; and the illegal capture and trade of high value species by criminal syndicates in Australia and South Africa.

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