Illegal fishing undermines efforts by governments and responsible fishers to sustainably manage fisheries. It also threatens livelihoods, food security and sustainable development and costs the global economy $23 billion annually.
Despite the severity of these problems, governments often lack adequate laws to put offenders out of business. In many countries, even serious fisheries offences only warrant a fine and are not regarded as crimes. And despite industrial fishing today being a globalised business, fisheries crimes have not previously been regarded as an issue warranting international law enforcement cooperation.
"With illegal fishing depleting fish stocks, especially in developing countries and on the high seas, often with impunity and in broad daylight, this move by the international community to take the problem seriously is long overdue", said Jessica Battle, Global Ocean Governance Programme Manager, WWF International.
"Now, we need to see individual governments, especially as flag states, take legislative action to criminalise serious offences and to effectively enforce the law. The future food supply and wellbeing of coastal communities across the world is at stake."
WWF is advocating for serious fisheries offenses to be criminalised and crimes adequately punished to effectively deter fishers and fishing companies from engaging in crimes. This involves upgrading national laws but also international cooperation by fisheries, judiciary, customs and police agencies.