Illegal fishing trade fuels transnational organized crime
A global investigation has shown that the illegal fishing trade fuels transnational organized crime activities such as people, drugs and explosives trafficking, Interpol reported.
Operation Ikatere ran from June to October earlier this year and targeted fishing-related crime and the reasons for the decline in global marine biodiversity.
Law enforcement agencies in 34 member states carried out no less than 1,710 inspections across the seven seas and seized nearly a ton of illicit products, including protected wildlife, drugs and explosives.
The Montenegrin authorities alone are said to have recovered more than 20 cylinders of explosives that can be used in fishing to quickly neutralize large amounts of marine life over a large area, given the powerful shock wave it creates in the water.
“The use of explosives as a method of illegal fishing is a growing trend among unscrupulous players in the industry, as the progressive depletion of fish stocks pushes vessels to maintain their catch rates at all costs,” he said. said Ilana De Wild, director of organized and emerging crime at Interpol. .
However, the same type of explosives used in illegal fishing practices are also used by criminal and terrorist groups, the Lyon-based anti-crime agency noted.
“It was discovered that the bomb makers behind the terrorist attacks in recent years were also supplying explosives to the illegal fishing industry,” De Wild added.
Operation Ikatere uncovered more in its investigation.
Since fishing vessels spend long periods at sea and are rarely disturbed by law enforcement, organized crime groups use them to smuggle their illicit cargoes around the world, cargoes that can include drugs. and human beings.
Kenyan police rescued 121 victims of human trafficking and slavery, including children, on fishing boats during the five-month investigation.
In addition to requisitioning fishing boats to carry out their criminal activities, organized criminal groups also use several other means to hide in plain sight.
Examples include fake vessel certificates, fake fishing licenses and fake crew documents, all used by criminals to cover up the true nature of their vessel’s illicit activities, according to Interpol.
Illegal fishing is considered one of the most pervasive threats to sustainable marine life and biodiversity and, along with unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, costs the global economy billions of dollars every year.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), around 20 percent of the world’s gross catch rates come from IUU fishing, with the rate reaching 40 percent in coastal regions and developing countries. .
“The broad participation in Operation Ikatere… demonstrates the global commitment to apply sustainable management of marine resources. Our collective livelihood and livelihood depend on it, ”said Stephen Kavanagh, Executive Director of Interpol Police Services.