Global Organisations Discuss Tackling Crime in the Fisheries Sector

24 October 2016, at 1:00am

GLOBAL - The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organization) and UNODC (UN Office on Drugs and Crime) recently held a jointly organised conference on the fight against crimes that take place in the fisheries sector.

The conference (13-14 October) brought together more than 100 delegates from around the world. Over the course of the two day conference, participants heard from stakeholders - including international organisations, tax authorities, fisheries authorities, law enforcement, practitioners, non-governmental organisations - about how to better fight tax crimes and other crimes in the fisheries sector.

Delegates to the conference on tax crimes and other crimes agreed that greater international co-operation is required to prosecute and deter fisheries associated crimes.

The main conclusions coming out of the meeting were that:

  • Effectively fighting fish crime requires strong cooperation, between police, prosecutors and fisheries managers within a country and across countries to tackle the frequently transnational nature of crimes committed.

  • Investigating and prosecuting fisheries crimes is time-consuming and expensive. This is part of why cooperation is so important, but it also means that ways to ease and lower the costs of cooperation must be found.

  • In particular, having established frameworks that act as an umbrella for cooperation can increase trust, build relationships and otherwise ease the costs of working across borders to fight fish crime. Organisations like the OECD, the FAO and UNODC can help build these frameworks.

  • Different jurisdictions and agencies collect data that can help investigate crimes, but often lack the mandate to share it. Promoting open data exchange through a common framework can bring evidence of crimes to those who can act on it.

  • Not all countries are willing participants in the fight against fish crime. Strengthening established international agreements to mandate cooperation and penalise bad behaviour can bring some of the more reluctant players on board.

  • Political will is often the missing element in the fight against fish crimes. Moving this issue up the political agenda takes increased awareness of damage caused by illegal activities and the amounts of money involved.

  • Enforcement starts with legislation. Each country has responsibilities as a flag state, coastal state, market state or port state as well as for their own nationals. Gaps in the law give impunity to illegal actors.

  • Crimes can occur at every part of the value chain from fishing boat to consumer. All sector participants can help by building transparency into their operations to identify where crimes are likely to occur.

  • Moreover, sector operations like seafood processors or financial service providers should take greater responsibility to make sure their activities do not involve fisheries crime.

  • Investments in improved training and resources for investigations are needed to build capacity to fight tax crime and other crimes in the fisheries sector.

“Bringing such a broad group of stakeholders together allowed us to get to the heart of what needs to happen to reinforce the fight against IUU in the fisheries sector. By working more closely, the different national agencies can tackle IUU fisheries activities more effectively. In particular, tax and fisheries control agencies can learn from each other and work in co-operation. The OECD is looking forward to continue working with partner organisations, such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, to develop a set of best practice policies to achieve these aims,” explained Leon Lomans, Chair, OECD Fisheries Committee.