The ministers are trying to fight organized crime in global fisheries Ship’s crew


By Louise Rasmussen

COPENHAGEN, March 23 (Reuters) – Organized crime in the fishing industry, which endangers stocks, exploits workers and robs states of billions of dollars, needs to be tackled with cross-border surveillance and increased law enforcement, officials meeting in Copenhagen on Thursday said.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), around 600 million people worldwide depend on this sector for their livelihood, working in a value chain affected by illegal fishing, slave labor, corruption and tax evasion.

Government ministers and delegates attended a conference of the Blue Justice Initiative, which was backed by 60 coastal countries including Brazil, South Africa, Norway and Indonesia on Thursday to work together to stamp out transboundary crime in the world’s fisheries.

Many developing countries lack even the basic tracking systems needed to understand the scale of the problems, according to the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries, which acts as the secretariat for the initiative.

The cross-border nature of organized crime makes prosecution even more difficult, as it can be difficult to prove that a crime has taken place within a given country’s maritime borders.

“One thing is tracking, getting the data, analyzing the data, catching the criminals, but then you need law enforcement in the country to move forward,” Norway’s Development Minister Anne Beath Tvinnereim told Reuters.

“If you don’t have law enforcement…coast guards, ships, a legal system that can deal with the criminals, you haven’t really accomplished anything. So it’s a long chain of things you need in place,” she said on the sidelines of the conference.

Citing research reports, the FAO estimates that between US$9 and US$17 billion in fisheries revenue flows annually from the illegal trade, with fisheries accounting for up to 60% of government revenues in some smaller island nations.

“It’s a long road, but we have to start somewhere because it’s such a huge loss of income and food resources for these countries,” Tvinnereim said.

(Reporting by Louise Breusch Rasmussen, editing by Terje Solsvik and Mark Heinrich)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023.

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