On the 29 June 2020 the Blue Justice Initiative in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) organized a consultation on COVID-19 implications for Fisheries Crime Law Enforcement.
The consultation had participation of experts from Colombia, Senegal, Norway, Morocco, Kenya and organizations such as UNODC, UNDP, Indonesian Ocean Justice Initiative (IOJI) and CEMLAWS (Ghana).
Based on the discussions some general observations was made and it is obvious that the COVID-19 crisis is challenging. This applies particularly for vulnerable coastal communities dependent on artisanal fishing have suffered increased economic dislocation, rising levels of poverty and associated food insecurity as they are not able to legally go to sea or sell their products. In light of limited alternative livelihood options this renders them susceptible to engaging in illegal activities to generate income.
The decline in national fishing activities due to lockdown has created opportunity for illegal fishing by foreign registered vessels in national waters and related, increased illegal fishing in national waters by perpetrators from neighbouring countries is noticeable in several regions.
On the basis of the presentations and the general discussion, the participants of the meeting concluded that in crises, such as the global Covid-19 pandemic:
- Fisheries law enforcement is more challenging as governments’ focus on response to the crisis.
- Transnational criminal networks exploit enforcement weakness to conduct crime in the sector and to recruit vulnerable coastal communities to engage in illicit activities along the supply chain with adverse gendered implications
- The importance of a coordinated governance response to protect the fisheries sector against criminal exploitation is emphasised.
- Our dependence on the ocean and marine resources highlights the need to build a Blue Economy that is resilient to crises including via more effective use of digital tools.