Evading the Net: Tax Crime in the Fisheries Sector

May 13, 2013

The fisheries sector is a major global industry, with strategic importance for many countries. In 2010, fisheries and aquaculture provided fish with a total value of USD 217.5 billion. Developing countries are a major participant in this market, providing over 50% of the world fish trade, which contributes a greater amount to their net earnings from foreign exchange than meat, tea, bananas and coffee combined. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that over 500 million people in developing countries depend, directly or indirectly, on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods. However, despite these positive statistics, the fisheries sector remains vulnerable to organised criminal activity that not only inhibits the ability of countries to enforce fisheries policy, but directly impacts the economic and social wellbeing of people in both developed and developing countries. A 2011 issues paper by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) focused on the role of large-scale organised criminal groups operating within the fisheries sector in the trafficking in persons, the smuggling of migrants and the smuggling of illicit drugs, weapons and illegal tobacco, but found evidence of vulnerabilities to a wide range of organised crime. This report, prepared by the OECD Task Force on Tax Crimes and Other Crimes, looks at the issue of tax crime in the fisheries sector, and the impact this has on the ability of countries to raise government revenue to fund public expenditure and development. Organised crime is rarely restricted to one sphere, and so a greater understanding of the ways to detect and combat tax crime, should also have a direct positive impact on the ability of countries to combat other criminal activity.