We have the tools to tackle illegal fishing. It’s time to use them

Date: January 18, 2019

Source: World Economic Forum

Author: Jim Leape

Largely out of sight, criminals pillage the oceans. They steal millions of tonnes of fish each year. That is a huge economic loss, estimated to be somewhere in the tens of billions of dollars. It is an even larger threat to food security; a billion people depend on fish as their source of protein, and in many of the countries that are most dependent, one fish in three is stolen. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing defeats governments’ efforts to manage their resources, and it undercuts the millions of fishers who are playing by the rules.

IUU fishing is a human rights crisis. The vessels that fish illegally often carry slaves. Hundreds of thousands of people are trapped on boats, facing wanton brutality.

It is also a security threat. Vessels that fish illegally are often trafficking drugs or arms and laundering money. And when illegal fishing destroys the food security and livelihoods of coastal countries, it creates fertile ground for the recruitment of terrorists. The explosion of pirate attacks in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea, for example, was linked to the surge in IUU fishing by foreign fleets decimating the stocks that sustained local communities.

IUU vessels have operated with impunity. They travel anonymously, hopping from one flag of convenience to another. Law enforcement agencies often have little information about a vessel’s registration, ownership, or even where it is licensed to fish. Illegal vessels are also shielded by the vastness of the ocean and the near impossibility of catching boats on the high seas. Small island developing states have been particularly vulnerable, possessing vast ocean resources but very limited capacity to patrol their domains or apprehend transgressors.


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