Interpol Releases Recommendations on Combating Fisheries Crime in West Africa

Created on Wednesday, 09 September 2015


In 2013, Interpol launched Project Scale to address the growing concern among member countries of illegal fishing and related crimes. As part of the objective to identify and prevent fisheries crime, Project Scale recently conducted a study focusing on West Africa, where smaller fisheries are vulnerable to illegal fishing. The ‘Study on Fisheries Crime in the West African Coastal Region’ describes regional efforts and obstacles to discouraging illegal fishing and provides recommendations for future actions.fisherman pulling net-01

As part of the study, the team reviewed publically available information and held a two-day workshop with stakeholders to discuss current efforts in national fisheries law, regional collaboration, and maritime security. Interpol also evaluated associated crimes that facilitate illegal fishing, such as corruption, customs fraud, and human trafficking, including these activities in the term “fisheries crime”.

Interpol also researched the link between illegal fishing and human trafficking. Due to a lack of law enforcement capacity on the water, the fishing sector can be vulnerable to human trafficking and forced labor. Working conditions on merchant ships are regulated by the international Port State Control Measures, but there is no equivalent directive for fishing vessels. The United National Convention on the Law of the Sea designates responsibility of fishing vessels to the country whose flag they fly. Whether activities on vessels are monitored depends on the country’s capacity and political will. Illegal fishers and traffickers selectively choose the countries that lack capacity or will to oversee vessel activities since their actions will often go overlooked. In West Africa, lack of capacity and awareness makes identifying, monitoring, and prosecuting human trafficking difficult.

Based on Project Scale’s findings, Interpol released the following key recommendations for West African member countries to address fisheries crime:

  • Reinforce cooperation and coordination between law enforcement agencies.
  • Encourage information sharing among countries, such as capacity building efforts, vessel monitoring systems, and other surveillance data to improve efficiency and law enforcement response. Due to the transnational nature of fisheries crime and links to other criminal activities such as human trafficking, relevant authorities should coordinate efforts to improve efficiency and create a combined response.
  • Increase awareness that some types of illegal fishing are forms of transnational and organized crimes.
  • Support member countries and other organizations in updating Interpol notices in criminal fishing activities and suspected vessels. Provide investigative support and capacity building to Interpol member countries’ fisheries enforcement operations.
  • Increase transparency in fishing license and vessel registry procedures through establishing a competent authority able to provide timely verifications while adhering to international regulations. Recommendations on how to improve fairness in fisheries authorities include:
    • Work with other member countries and appropriate entities to develop best practices for licensing and elements of valid licenses.
    • Make all fisheries legislations publicly available so that identifying violations is more straightforward.
    • Increase transparency on the roles of anti-corruption units and encourage their use in fisheries authorities to address bribery and similar improprieties.

To download the full report, visit the Interpol Environmental Crime Resource page.

To learn more about IUU fishing, visit the FishWise Traceability & IUU Fishing Resources page. To learn more about human trafficking within the fishing industry, visit the FishWise Human Rights Resources Page.