Illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing relies on low levels of onshore scrutiny, according to a new IUU fishing report.
US-based global security data analysis non-profit the Centre for Advanced Defence Studies (C4ADS) conducted the study, titled ‘Strings attached: exploring the onshore networks behind illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing’, over 15 months; identifying and analysing suspect business practices by 29 networks, comprising over 2,000 companies, believed to have engaged in IUU fishing practices. Companies investigated in the IUU fishing report were found to have established complex structures of ownership, with many vessels suspected of engaging in illegal fishing registered under the names of shell companies in jurisdictions with low levels of transparency.
Scrutiny by maritime law enforcement bodies of IUU fishing has typically focused on vessels operating at sea. C4ADS’s IUU fishing report highlights the failure of authorities to regulate or enforce onshore activity which enables illegal fishing to continue; and which is frequently linked to other illicit activity, including organised crime, human trafficking and fraud.
The report notes: “Our investigations into IUU networks highlight the necessity of expanding the scope of enforcement action against IUU fishing and drawing attention to the transnational networks behind this activity… it is clear that enforcement needs to adopt measures to more effectively identify and understand the major facilitators that are based onshore, including non-compliant flag states, the ultimate beneficial owners of fishing vessels, and other actors exploiting the fishing sector. Without the continued support of these key actors, IUU fishing vessels at sea would have fewer opportunities to land and launder illicit catch, diminishing the associated profits.
“IUU fishing can only be adequately addressed through cross-jurisdictional investigations, laws and regulations targeting the entities behind the fishing vessels. The consequences of low transparency and a lack of accountability in the global fishing sector extend far beyond issues of sustainability. These vulnerabilities also directly facilitate the extortion of revenue from states and undermine the legitimacy of governance and the legality of the seafood supply chain around the world.”