Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Interpol initiative aims to batter fisheries crime

Project Scale launched to chip away at $23bn illegal activities contributing to resource depletion and trafficking. 
A new international initiative to crack down on illegal fishing practices is set to be launched later today. Interpol's Project Scale is designed to help authorities combat illegal fishing activities estimated to be worth between $10bn and $23bn a year, such as harvesting of prohibited species, and fishing out-of-season, over set quotas, or without a licence.

The international policy agency said an escalation of transnational and organised criminal networks engaged in fisheries crime over the last decade has contributed to world stocks becoming increasingly depleted and pushed valuable species towards extinction.

An estimated 75 per cent of Europe's stocks are overfished, prompting MEPs to approve new rules protecting fish stocks earlier this month.

Without action, Interpol says fisheries crime will continue to undermine resource conservation efforts, damage the credibility of fisheries policies, and threaten food security, while also destabilising some coastal regions and supporting human rights abuses and the trafficking of drugs, arms, and people.

Financed by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Norwegian government, Project SCALE will gather data on fisheries crime, conduct operations against criminal activities, and help authorities establish national fisheries crime task forces.

The new push was welcomed by José María Figueres, former President of Costa Rica and co-chair of NGO the recently launched Global Ocean Commission, a spin out of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

"In many parts of the world, measures to constrain overfishing are virtually certain to fail unless illegality is effectively tackled," he said in a statement.

"Curbing illegal fishing is a vital step towards restoring the ecological health of the global ocean, and so realising its full economic potential."

The news comes the day after TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall orchestrated a march on Parliament to demand the UK government introduce 127 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), which would ban fishing methods such as bottom trawling and dredging that are thought to damage the sea floor from key offshore areas.

The Government's Scientific Advisory Panel has so-far approved 31 MPAs, after ruling that a previous review of proposed additional MPAs required further evidence.

The proposal to introduce further MPAs are likely to be reconsidered once more evidence has been compiled, but Hugh's Fish Fight campaign is demanding that the process is expedited.

Source: Guardian

Image courtesy of winkyintheuk via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)