Ghana: Countering fisheries crime in the trade supply chain

19-22 June 2017 the UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme (CCP) delivered a training course in Ghana on fisheries crime. The participants represented the CCP Port Control Unit in Tema, the Fisheries Commission and Tema Port and Harbour Authority.

The training programme, which was launched in Bangladesh in March 2017, enhances the operational skills of law enforcement officers fight fisheries crime. Furthermore, by bringing the CCP Port Control Units, customs, police, fisheries departments and other law enforcement agencies as well as the private sector together, cooperation between these agencies is strengthened, fostering a comprehensive approach to fight this type of crime.

The participants engaged in topics such as international and national legal frameworks, monitoring, control and surveillance related to fisheries crime, methods and impact of fishery crime, links to other forms of international crime, corruption, gender, human rights and secured communication tools. A half-day study visit to the fishing port in Tema was also organised, giving the law enforcement officers an insight to everyday work in this port.

The training benefitted from the participation of an external expert provided by the Norwegian customs. The expert shared lessons learned based on his experience and also presented the North Atlantic Fisheries Intelligence Group (Na-Fig).


Considering that national and international cooperation is crucial in fighting illicit activities, CCP’s fisheries crime component covers 13 countries in West Africa, East Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia. This component is financed by the Government of Norway, through the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad).

At present, the CCP is operational in 43 countries and has initiated activities in 11 more. Since its inception in 2004, CCP has established more than 65 Port Control Units consisting of customs and other law enforcement agencies, leading to significant seizures of forest, wildlife and environmental crime proceeds, drugs, precursor chemicals, strategic goods, falsified medicines, cigarettes, intellectual property rights/counterfeit goods and weapons.

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Indonesia opens the International FishFORCE Academy of Indonesia (IFFAI)

Inter-agency cooperation is vital for effective criminal enforcement in the fisheries sector. The International FishFORCE Academy of Indonesia (IFFAI) was opened on the 16th of March 2017 to train enforcement officers and promote inter-agency cooperation. IFFAI is a joint initiative by the Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, the Indonesian National Police (Polri), and the Presidential Task Force to Combat Illegal Fishing (Task Force 115).

The inauguration and opening ceremony was attended by the Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Susi Pudjiastuti, the National Chief of Police, General Tito Karnavian, the Indonesia Navy’s Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Ade Supandi, the Indonesia Navy’s Deputy Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Achmad Taufiqurrahman, the Indonesia Chief of Coast Guard, Rear Admiral Ari Soedewo, Deputy Attorney General for General Crimes, Noor Rachmad, Executive Director of Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC), INP Police Brigadier General Muhamad Safei, and the Executive Director Programs of JCLEC, AFP Superintendent James Stokes. The head of the Norwegian sister-organisation of Indonesia’s Task Force 115, Gunnar Stølsvik, together with other Norwegian experts, also participated at the opening. Stølsvik gave a lecture on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to the IFFAI students.

IFFAI sets its objective on: (i) improving the knowledge and skills of enforcement officers in the fisheries sector; (ii) building a common perception of fisheries crime and effective inter-agency cooperation at the national and international level; (iii) facilitating the exchange of data and information between law enforcement officers in the fisheries sector on case-handling experiences, emerging modus operandi, and tools to combat fisheries crime; and (iv) strengthening the ability of enforcement officers in the fisheries sector to achieve breakthroughs in their work.

In order to create an effective response to fisheries crime, IFFAI applies a multi-legal regime approach, also known as the multi-door approach, and criminal corporate liability against the perpetrators. The first IFFAI training was held between the 16th and 25th of March at Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC) in Semarang, with participants from the National Police, the Navy, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, and the Attorney General’s Office. Australia provided assistance and support to the first IFFAI training.

In future trainings, other relevant agencies will also be invited, including the Coast Guard, the Supreme Court, the Tax and Customs authorities. Indonesia is now looking to collaborate with other countries and organisations to enhance capacity-building to counter fisheries crime.


Recommendations of the 2nd International Symposium on Fisheries Crime

To instigate, conduct and facilitate investigation of fisheries crime by relevant law enforcement agencies within appropriate national jurisdictions along the entire fisheries supply and value chains.

To use the broader range of laws in which investigations of fisheries crime throughout supply and value chains can, in addition to fisheries legislation, utilize criminal codes and penal provisions in tax legislation, labour laws, organized crime laws and the law criminalizing document fraud, money laundering and corruption. States are also encouraged to fully utilize the FAO Port State Measures Agreement, RFMOs rules and regulations, the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols and United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and relevant ILO conventions. States should be encouraged to criminalize appropriate offences committed along the entire fisheries supply and value chains.

To facilitate cooperation between relevant domestic authorities. Inter-agency and multidisciplinary cooperation is useful when conducting investigations along the whole fisheries supply and value chains. Such cooperation should be organized in multiagency teams which include relevant agencies, such as police, fisheries authorities, tax authorities, customs, anti-corruption agencies, labour inspection authorities, coast guard, coastal administration and immigration authorities.

To cooperate across borders between governments and law enforcement agencies, as well as broader inter-agency cooperation at national and international level, is key to conducting successful international criminal investigations that can trigger prosecutions and secure convictions and deterring penalties.

To conduct capacity building which can support countries to significantly improve national law enforcement responses toward all forms of fisheries crimes. It is highlighted that there is a need to recognize the inter-continental flow of illegal fish products, finance and human trafficking victims in transnational organized fisheries crime cases.

To stimulate cross-disciplinary research on transnational organised fisheries crime and to encourage academia and governmental institutions to do so in order to assist governments develop effective strategies and legal frameworks nationally and internationally.


UNODC launches its ‘Fisheries Crime’ focus sheet

unodc-focus-sheetThe UNODC launched its ‘Fisheries Crime’ focus sheet at the CCPCJ.

The focus sheet details the multifaceted nature and extent of transnational organised fisheries crime globally emphasising that it is a ‘complex crime demanding cooperative law enforcement’.

Recommendations towards this end include enhanced cooperative criminal justice sector and law enforcement responses and policy and legislative review and reform.

The focus sheet forms part of a dedicated UNODC public awareness raising campaign on fisheries crime.

For more information visit


Fisheries law enforcement academy to be established in South Africa

The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) recently received confirmation that funding has been approved towards the establishment of a Fisheries Law Enforcement Academy at NMMU in Port Elizabeth.

Professor Hennie van As, a Professor in Public Law and Director of the Centre for Law in Action (CLA) in the Faculty of Law at NMMU said, “The main purpose of the academy is to address international sea fisheries crime. We aim to train fisheries inspectors and other role-players in the criminal justice system along the South and East African coastlines, as well as Namibia, with a plan to extend this throughout the Indian Ocean Rim, including countries like Indonesia.”

The Fisheries Law Enforcement Academy training will cover basic and specialised training in how to board a ship, crime scene management, the difference between inspection and investigation and what happens when an inspection becomes an investigation. Training will also include species identification, the use of technology in monitoring and surveillance, and technical issues such as permits and quotas, as well as the legal aspects of international smuggling and human trafficking.

Emphasising the importance of the training that will be provided by the academy in collaboration with on-going international efforts to address fisheries crime, Professor van As commented “The illegal harvesting, processing and trading of any kind of fish or seafood globally is so huge, it’s in effect a parallel economic system that’s undermining sustainable economic growth. Countries are being deprived of taxes; citizens of jobs, food and income; and fisheries and environments are being destroyed.”

Speaking on behalf of Stop Illegal Fishing Per Erik Bergh welcomed the initiative “Tackling crime in the fisheries sector is especially challenging due to the complex multi jurisdictional nature of the crimes taking place; having well informed and well trained professionals working in this sector is vital.”



Spanish Authorities Arrest Fishing Crime Leader

Environmental group Sea Shepherd reports that Spanish authorities have arrested six people, including Antonio Vidal Suárez, a leader in the Vidal Armadores organization, on charges relating to illegally fishing for Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish.

Sea Shepherd’s Captains Peter Hammarstedt and Siddharth Chakravarty have congratulated the authorities. The environmentalists say that Vidal Armadores is the most notorious of a handful of Spanish-based fishing outfits that are believed to have controlling interests in the illegal trade of toothfish.

In 2002, the family-owned company made international headlines when Australian authorities famously pursued the Vidal-owned vessel, Viarsa 1, off sub-Antarctic Heard Island for suspected toothfish poaching. That same year United States officials seized an illegal shipment of Vidal Armadores toothfish.

Many of the company’s ships have ended up on international blacklists, including the Kunlun, Yongding and Songhua; three of the “Bandit 6” toothfish poaching vessels that have been the focus of Sea Shepherd’s last two Southern Ocean Defense Campaigns, Operation Icefish and Operation Icefish 2015-16.

In February 2015, during Operation Icefish, Chakravarty and the crew of the Sea Shepherd ship, Sam Simon, intercepted theYongding and Kunlun in Australian Antarctic waters.

Chakravarty then pursued the Kunlun out of its hunting grounds in the Southern Ocean. International attention on the Kunlunand the issue of toothfish poaching ensued, and the vessel was prevented from returning to its poaching operations in the Southern Ocean, before it was arrested in Senegal last month.

In May 2015, the Songhua and Yongding were apprehended in Cabo Verde, West Africa, as a result of intelligence provided to international law enforcement by Hammarstedt.

“For over a decade the owners behind the Bandit 6 have remained hidden behind a shroud of mystery. Sea Shepherd’s actions on the oceans to shut down their fishing operations have been hugely successful. With the ships out of commission, land-based investigations and raids by various authorities in Spain are now taking the enforcement to the source of the illegal trade,” said Chakravarty.

Sea Shepherd has also highlighted the importance of continued international cooperation in the battle against illegal fishing.

“These recent arrests are evidence of the critical role of Interpol’s Fisheries Crime Unit and international cooperation in the fight against illegal fishing,” said Hammarstedt. “Global collaboration is essential to combat this crime which is also global, both in its nature and in its impact.”

Source: The Maritime Executive


Joint High Level Side Event ‘Transnational Organised Fisheries Crime’

Fisheries crime was the focus of the Joint High Level Side Event ‘Transnational Organised Fisheries Crime’ co-hosted by the Government of the Republic of Indonesia, The Government of Norway and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime of the 25th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (Crime Commission) on 23 May in Vienna.

Every year, the Crime Commission draws together around 1,000 participants annually from Member States, civil society and academia. At this year’s Crime Commission there are around 50 side events and 14 exhibitions on crime prevention and criminal justice matters. At the Transnational Organised Fisheries Crime Side Event all four panelists highlighted the serious nature and global reach of transnational organised fisheries crime, recognising its complex multifaceted nature, its adverse economic, social, political and ecological consequences on developing nations in particular, and the need for transnational cooperation to address the problem. Mr Lale-Demoz, referencing the outcome of the Expert Group Meeting on Fisheries Crime held in Vienna in February 2016, emphasised the key role of UNODC in facilitating enhanced cooperative law enforcement towards this end.

A link to the Conference Room Paper of the Expert Group Meeting on Fisheries Crime can be found here.


Co-operation can turn the tide against illegal fishing

Most South Africans are unaware of the work done each day by hundreds of fisheries law enforcement officers, who risk their lives fighting ruthless criminals operating in organised networks.

The criminals’ activities put at risk sustainable economic growth, undermine coastal communities’ livelihoods and threaten food security. They pose a challenge to the goal of maximising the blue economy on the African continent.

This emerged during the international symposium FishCRIME, held in Cape Town last month. The clear point was that effective fisheries law enforcement is crucial to sustainably maximising the ocean’s resources and realising a blue economy.

Fisheries officers intercept and bring to book the masterminds behind highly organised and well-financed criminal networks engaged in a range of transnational illegal activities in the fishing sector. They investigate crimes including illegal fishing, drug smuggling, money-laundering and human trafficking.

The FishCRIME symposium was a first step to conceptualising and developing a new global fisheries law-enforcement paradigm. It is not surprising that this discussion took place in SA.

SA is experiencing a surge of organised fisheries crime due to its geographical position and good port infrastructure, but it also harbours some of the world’s most dedicated and innovative fisheries law-enforcement units.

The investigation and successful prosecution in 2003 of former fishing magnate Arnold Bengis – convicted and jailed for poaching huge quantities of rock lobster and Patagonian toothfish and exporting it illegally to the US – is unparalleled globally and was initiated by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The symposium, organised back to back with a meeting of Interpol’s fisheries crime working group, brought together more than 200 experts from 31 countries.

With nearly a third of global fisheries resources exhausted and half exploited to their limit, a vital food source is about to disappear.

Along some African coastlines, criminals are pillaging more than a third of local fisheries resources. To maximise the blue economy, the continent must urgently step up the protection of its resources.

Yet illegal fishing has been regarded as a minor problem outside Africa; a bit of cheating by naughty businesses. The response has been to advocate port and at-sea inspections and comparatively low fines. Only in severe cases do penalties include the forfeiture or blacklisting of a vessel.

These measures do not recognise that transnational criminal networks have made illegal fishing a business. The fines and blacklisting of vessels are absorbed as business costs.

These networks are deliberately engaging in fisheries crime and are exploiting the loopholes of the law of the sea and fisheries regulations to avoid being penalised.

Africa needs smarter and more co-ordinated enforcement. Stronger multi-agency co-operation and cross-border policing is needed.

SA is leading the way on the continent. Through the Port of Entry Control Centre in Cape Town, agencies are taking a multidisciplinary approach to fisheries crime and related matters.

SA has one of the most progressive marine fisheries laws – the Marine Living Resources Act – that criminalises illegal fishing. The 1998 Prevention of Organised Crime Act and general criminal law provide law-enforcement officials with tools for the successful prosecution of fisheries crime cases. These provisions have been harnessed in recent prosecutions and are in use in investigations into transnational criminal networks engaged in illegal abalone harvesting and trade. But one country cannot do this job alone. Crime crosses borders, and so must law enforcement.

How can the momentum generated by the symposium drive change? It is anticipated that SA will continue to play a leading role in pushing the fisheries law-enforcement paradigm forward.

Crucial arenas for regional and global dialogue are likely to be the African Union, the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and Interpol.

With the adoption of the new 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy, African leaders are poised to set the direction for a new fisheries law-enforcement paradigm with a focus on intelligence-led, multidisciplinary and cross-border policing of the oceans.

The work has already begun. Through the Interpol Fisheries Crime Working Group, SA has encouraged the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to consider the possibility of creating an international fisheries law-enforcement academy in Port Elizabeth to support the blue economy and strengthen the fight against fisheries crime.

The academy will bring together fisheries officers from across Africa and beyond. It will boost their competency, build networks and trust, and improve law-enforcement efforts. An increasing number of African fisheries officers are active in Interpol co-ordinated operations. They are the front line protectors of our common resources.

These efforts are already paying off. During the last day of the symposium in Cape Town, Interpol announced, on behalf of a multinational operational task team in which SA plays a central role, that Sâo Tomé and Principé had made a historical ruling: it sentenced the Chilean and Spanish senior officers on board the renegade illegal fishing vessel the Thunder to prison for up to three years and a $17m fine.

This is a historic achievement, made possible by dedicated intelligence sharing and co-ordination by fisheries law-enforcement officers from Africa and the rest of the world.


Transnational crime in the fisheries sector tackled by global experts

Large scale criminal activity in the fisheries sector is rampant and highly lucrative. With these crimes frequently being of a transnational and largely organized nature, the sector is vulnerable to multiple issues including illegal fishing, corruption, document fraud, and human trafficking. The reality, as evidenced by a number of cases, is that fisheries offences – such as illegal fishing – are just one of various criminal activities, which are often organized and largely committed transnationally along the entire value chain of a specific group of products in trade, namely fish and fish products.

UNODC, together with WWF, recently convened a meeting in Vienna to address fisheries crime through the criminal justice system, extending beyond the traditional realm of fisheries control and compliance. The Expert Group Meeting on Fisheries Crime brought together law enforcement, legal, academic, policy, and technical experts from around the world to contribute towards a better understanding of fisheries crime and discuss the potential responses by all parties.

At the event, UNODC Deputy Executive Director, Aldo Lale-Demoz, spoke of the transnational nature of fisheries crime and the need for a coordinated international response: “Fisheries crime is highly organized. It cannot be tackled by a single country without cooperation, nor can it be tackled using only traditional compliance measures.” For her part, WWF’s Marine Manager, Jessica Battle, remarked: “The days when it was appropriate to write off such offenses as ‘it’s just fish’ are long gone. Destroying the resource base upon which individuals, households and communities rely is a serious matter.” Experts also discussed the need to address illegal fishing and other fisheries crimes from a criminal law enforcement angle in addition to the traditional fisheries management approach.

UNODC works in strengthening transnational cooperation and inter agency coordination to assist countries to better identify, investigate and prosecute fisheries crime. At the Expert Group Meeting, action-oriented recommendations for tackling fisheries crime were promoted – including an improved use of tools and mechanisms already available, and the development of the necessary practical new law enforcement and criminal justice responses around the world.

Source: UNODOC website


Crackdown on Poachers in Antarctica Continues

The crackdown on poachers in the Southern Ocean continues with news that authorities in Senegal, West Africa, have detained the internationally wanted toothfish-poaching vessel, Kunlun.

Reports allege that the Kunlun had previously falsified its registry, claiming Indonesia as its flag state. This allowed the vessel to be detained in Senegal on formalities regarding its certification and flag status.

Out of the six known toothfish poaching vessels, which Sea Shepherd calls the “Bandit 6”, five are now out of action. Only one, the Viking, remains at large.

Sea Shepherd’s Flagship, Steve Irwin, will now continue to target the Viking as a part of its current Southern Ocean Defense Campaign, Operation Icefish 2015-16.

Captain of the Steve Irwin, Sid Chakravarty, said, “A continued strong commitment by state authorities across the world, heralded by the actions of Interpol’s Project Scale, has ensured that another toothfish poacher has been detained. International cooperation, spearheaded by two Southern Ocean campaigns by Sea Shepherd, has broken the back of the organized crime syndicates operating these vessels. Cooperation between entities is a must in the work to be done to tackle illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing.”

The Kunlun has a long history of IUU fishing and is believed to have links to known Spanish crime syndicate, Vidal Armadores.

In January 2015, the vessel was one of three illegal fishing boats which brazenly fished in the presence of the New Zealand Navy after they were found using banned bottom gillnets in Australian waters, in the Southern Ocean.

In February 2015, the Kunlun was again intercepted inside Australian waters, this time by the Sea Shepherd ship, Sam Simon, which at the time was under the command of Captain Chakravarty. The Sam Simon then engaged in an eight-day pursuit of the poaching vessel, chasing it out of its hunting grounds in the Southern Ocean.

Later that same month, Australian Customs and Border Protection officers boarded the Kunlun in waters near the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Following the boarding, the vessel was able to carry on to Southeast Asia with its illegal catch and gear.

Then in March, the Kunlun was detained in Phuket, Thailand, when it attempted to offload 182 tonnes (approximately 200 tons) of illegally caught Patagonian toothfish, declared to Thai Customs as grouper.

Given the limited application of Thailand’s national laws to international fisheries crimes, the vessel was subsequently reloaded with the illegal catch and was kept at anchor for five months. Citing the first possible opportunity, the vessel eluded the local Thai authorities and escaped from custody on September 8, 2015.

Since that time, there have been concerns about the vessel offloading its catch and returning to Antarctica. However, with the detention in Senegal, it is confirmed that Kunlun, renamed Asian Warrior, did not return to the Southern Ocean after it was pursued by the Sam Simon last February.

“In previous years, illegal vessels would simply change their names and flags at will and use international loopholes and the lack of international cooperation to survive and remain in operation,” said Captain Chakravarty. “It is incredibly satisfying to know that the Kunlun, which was chased out of the Southern Ocean by my vessel in February, 2015, has been unable to resume its illegal fishing operations. The work done by Sea Shepherd completes, and at times fills the gaps in the work of governments, which are restricted by outdated legal conventions such as the UNCLOS,” he concluded.