Fishing related crime linked to explosives, drugs and human trafficking

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LYON, France, January 30, 2022 (ENS) – Fishing-related crime is linked to other serious crimes such as human trafficking and the smuggling of drugs and explosives, report Interpol’s environmental and maritime security teams after a five-month intelligence operation covering 34 countries and all oceans.

During the operation, the international police force learned that the current depletion of living marine resources is leading to an increase in fishing-related crime.

A total of 1,710 inspections conducted during the month-long tactical phase of Interpol’s Operation Ikatere uncovered more than 100 cases of fishing and other crimes.

More than 40 arrest warrants have already been issued, while many investigations are still ongoing.

Almost a ton of illicit goods have been seized worldwide, including protected species of fish and wildlife, drugs and explosives. Montenegro’s law enforcement alone recovered more than 20 bottles of explosives during the operation.

Dynamite fishing in Malaysia, 2021 (Photo courtesy IUCN)

“The use of explosives as a method of illegal fishing is a growing trend among unscrupulous players in the industry, as the gradual depletion of fish stocks pushes vessels to maintain catch rates at all costs,” said said Ilana De Wild, director of organized and emerging crime at Interpol. .

“Their use also promotes the circulation of explosives that can be used by criminal or terrorist groups. It has been discovered that the bomb makers behind the terrorist attacks in recent years were also supplying explosives to the illegal fishing industry,” she said.

“Blast fishing is an extremely myopic method of fishing because it destroys the coral reef that fishermen depend on,” said Jerker Tamelander, head of the coral reef unit at UN Environment.

“It’s also extremely dangerous for the fishermen themselves because the bombs can explode prematurely,” he said.

The practice is illegal worldwide, but it persists due to difficulties in detecting, responding to and catching perpetrators.

Damage Illegal fishing Masks Other crimes

Illegal, unreported and unregulated, IUU fishing is one of the greatest threats to the sustainable use of marine resources, and limiting it is one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Every year, IUU fishing costs the global economy billions of dollars, Interpol said in a statement announcing the results of the operation.

An estimated 20% of the world’s total catch comes from IUU fishing, and this figure reaches 40% in some regions such as the coastal waters of some developing countries, points out the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations . This means that one in five fish taken from the ocean is caught illegally, depleting fish populations.

A marine mammal is illegally taken from the ocean. Interpol pursued this vessel for more than 100 days on behalf of several nations to put an end to its illegal fishing activities. The owners eventually sank the vessel to hide its illegal fishing, Interpol said in a statement. 2021 (Screenshot from Interpol video)

Criminals use fishing vessels to smuggle drugs and people because their nomadic sailing habits and long periods at sea allow these vessels to easily blend into the maritime landscape without suspicion, Interpol says. Criminal networks also use the proceeds of illegal commercial fishing to finance other illicit activities.

“Human trafficking and modern slavery are also serious problems in the fishing industry,” Interpol warns, citing Operation Ikatere, which found 121 trafficked men, women and children on vessels in the lake. Victoria, the largest lake in Africa. They were rescued by Kenyan law enforcement.

The operation also confirmed the frequent use of false documents – false vessel certificates, false fishing licenses or false crew documents – to conceal the true nature of a vessel’s activities, launder catches and conceal cases of fraud. labor exploitation or human trafficking.

More than 70 vessels allegedly associated with illegal fishing activities were identified during Operation Ikatere, mainly for failing to present valid fishing licenses for the areas in which they were caught fishing.

“The only way to effectively combat the myriad crimes associated with illegal fishing is through timely international cooperation between the country inspecting the fishing documents and the country believed to have issued them,” said Stephen Kavanagh, executive director of fishing services. Interpol police.

“The broad participation in Operation Ikatere – including landlocked countries such as Rwanda – demonstrates the global commitment to applying sustainable management of marine resources,” Kavanagh said. “Our collective sustenance and livelihoods depend on it.”

Operation Ikatere was supported by Interpol’s Fisheries Crime Task Force, an international platform for sharing expertise and experience and developing innovative policing approaches in this area of crime.

Interpol’s environmental security program and anti-illegal fishing activities are financially supported by the CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) Secretariat, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Agency United States for International Development (USAID).

The featured image: Law enforcement officers challenge illegal fishing and uncover other crimes during Operation Ikatere, 2021 (Photo courtesy of Interpol)

Environmental Information Service (ENS) © 2022 All rights reserved.

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