Environmental crimes are now the biggest source of funding for non-state militias and terrorist organizations, bringing in 38 percent of their revenue, according to a new study released by Interpol and researchers on global organized crime. That’s more money than the drug trade, kidnappings, human trafficking, extortion, looting and donations.
The category of environmental crime includes illegal timber, illegal fishing, wildlife trafficking and illegal mining. The study estimates the total cash flow from these activities to be between US$110 and US$281 billion annually, approximately 14 percent more than in 2016.
Fisheries crime: Fraud and impunity on the world’s seas
Close to 10% of the world’s catches are dumped at sea if they fail to meet the regulatory standards required.88 Great concern has been expressed over illegal fishing off the coast of West Africa and its impact on the livelihoods of local fishermen. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing off West Africa, which makes up between one third and half the total catch, is worth US$2.3 billion in 2015.89
In Somalia, illegal fishing has been posited as a cause of the rise in piracy through lost livelihoods. Losses incurred by foreign illegal vessels off Somalia have been estimated to be in the region of US$100– 300 million.90 IUU fishing off Senegal, with a catch of about 261 000 tonnes a year, incurred a loss of about US$300 million in 2012, or 2% of GDP.91 Many vessels offload illegal catches to other ships at sea.
The role of IUU fishing for threat finance is peripheral, although some fisheries are used to pay illegal taxes. The role of fishing vessels and recreational vessels in transporting drugs – whether from Colombia, or along the west and east African coasts – is significant, however. Furthermore, fishing vessels are key to transporting foreign fighters, including across the Caspian Sea, the Mediterranean, and off the Horn of Africa and Yemen.