What is Fisheries Crime?

Fisheries crime refers to a wide range of serious offences along the entire value chain of the fisheries sector

What is fisheries crime?

Fisheries crime refers to a wide range of offences along the value and supply chain of the fisheries sector, on land and at sea. It includes document fraud, tax evasion, corruption, money laundering, human trafficking and illegal fishing. The core of fisheries crime is economic crime aimed at increasing profits of outwardly legitimate fishing businesses or facilitating organised crime. It is wide-spread, usually transnational, largely organised, and negatively impacts states’ economies, distorts markets, harms the environment and undermines human rights including food security.

The current depleted state of world fisheries resources has rendered fish as a highly valuable resource. This attracts transnational organised crime syndicates. The fisheries sector is particularly vulnerable to organised criminal activity due to its transnational nature and associated law enforcement challenges combined with a porous regulatory regime. Organised criminal networks regard fisheries crime as a low risk and high profit activity.

Organised criminal networks engaging in fisheries crime employ ever-changing business models and modus operandi. This demands cooperative, flexible law enforcement responses based on inter-agency cooperation at a national, regional and international level. Watch the UNDP short video below.

Serious offences in the fisheries value chain


Chasing Red Herrings: Secrecy in Fisheries

Secrecy, or the ability to keep ones identity hidden behind a corporate veil, is a key facilitator of fisheries crime, including tax crime and other ancillary crimes in the fisheries sector. Secrecy means that investigators “don’t know what they don’t know” and is a fundamental challenge to fisheries crime law enforcement. The focus of this report is the jurisdictions that facilitate secrecy in fisheries, the flags of convenience, and particularly those that are contracted out to private companies, the so-called private flags, and the impact flags of convenience and secrecy has on effective fisheries crime law enforcement.

The report is the result of the joint effort of the INTERPOL Fisheries Crime Working Group (FCWG) and the North Atlantic Fisheries Intelligence Group (NA-FIG), with the input and support of the Secretariats at INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. It was made possible with the financial support of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and the Nordic Council of Ministers.