What is Fisheries Crime? / by Francisco Blaha

Fisheries crime is an ill-defined legal concept referring to a range of illegal activities in the fisheries sector. These activities - frequently transnational and organized in nature - include illegal fishing, document fraud, drug trafficking, and money laundering.

the initiative's logo

the initiative's logo

So it is quite interesting that Uniten Nations Office on Drugs and Crime decided to weight in. While I mostly disgree with their aproach to drugs, I find it reasuring the fisheries crime gets their atention.

Criminal activities in the fisheries sector are often regarded as synonymous with illegal fishing, which many States do not view or prosecute as criminal offences, but rather as a fisheries management concern, attracting low and usually administrative penalties. Organized criminal organizations thus engage in fisheries crime with relative impunity due both to low risk and high profits and uncoordinated, ineffective domestic and cross-border law enforcement efforts.

Fisheries crime is a multifaceted phenomenon which comprises various crimes, including economic crimes, that are committed at any point along the whole value chain; from the marine habitat through to the final consumer product. The transnational element of fisheries crime is important from a jurisdictional perspective when it comes to law enforcement efforts.

One facet of fisheries crime at a transnational organized level is large-scale, illegal fishing which threatens the stability of coastal communities – economically, socially and politically – particularly in developing regions.  In areas such as West Africa and South East Asia small-scale or artisanal shers depend on sustained stocks of near-shore fish for their livelihood and as a subsistence food source.

Considering the already-strained fish stocks in these regions, these groups are increasingly vulnerable.  As fish is a key source of animal protein in many coastal countries, diminishing fish stocks puts an increased strain on local and national food security which in turn can make Governments more unstable. 

The fact sheet they have published is worth reading.