Today, INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme, with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, announced the launch of a major global effort to stem illegal fishing and its associated crimes. This initiative, called Project SCALE, was launched at the 1st INTERPOL International Fisheries Enforcement Conference held at the INTERPOL General Secretariat in Lyon, France.
Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing costs the global economy up to $23 billion a year, according to a landmark study published in 2009 in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS One, and harms coastal communities, legal commercial fishing interests and the marine environment. Illegal fishers exploit – and profit from – weak laws, poor information sharing across jurisdictions and a shortage of monitoring and enforcement resources, particularly in developing countries.
“Project SCALE is an important component of a proposed global system to stop fisheries crime,” said Joshua Reichert, an executive vice president at Pew who leads the organization’s environmental work.
“Illegal fishing threatens the interests of legitimate fishermen worldwide and undermines the ability of the global community to properly manage fisheries in ways that will ensure a healthy future for this vitally important resource. In addition, efforts by pirate fishermen to keep their profits hidden spawn a host of other illegal activity including money laundering, tax evasion and fraud. With its global reach and history of tackling environmental crime, INTERPOL is ideally positioned to help bring these criminals to justice.”
“Project SCALE is a natural extension of INTERPOL’s efforts to safeguard species and habitat through effective enforcement,” said David Higgins, manager of INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme.
“With INTERPOL’s network, capacity building and intelligence-led enforcement support, we will contribute to a more focused and coordinated global effort to combat transnational and organized fisheries crime. We aim to build on the global momentum to target this criminal activity, and we are committed to assisting our member countries and partners in their efforts to fight criminal networks that exploit our marine natural resources.”
INTERPOL’s Project SCALE will confront fisheries crime head on with the goals of:
- Raising awareness about fisheries crime and its consequences;
- Establishing National Environmentl Security Task Forces to ensure cooperation on fisheries crime within and across borders;
- Assessing the needs of countries that are particularly vulnerable to illegal fishing;
- Conducting operations to suppress criminal activity, disrupt trafficking routes and ensure that national laws and policies are enforced;
- Increasing surveillance to better police fisheries crimes;
- Gathering better data on fisheries crimes to help improve monitoring and enforcement.
With Pew and the Norwegian government’s support, INTERPOL will conduct targeted monitoring and enforcement operations with a focus on vulnerable regions, including West and Southeast Africa. Working through its member countries’ National Central Bureau, INTERPOL will strengthen marine enforcement expertise and, ultimately, improve fisheries compliance and enforcement worldwide. The global police organization has also developed a Fisheries Crime Working Group, which will hold its first meeting this week in Lyon.
Pew has been working since 2009 to build a more systematic approach to end illegal fishing globally. Reaching that goal will require better identification and tracking of fishing vessels; inspections of vessels in port; information sharing among countries; the deployment of advanced technologies; the engagement of the policing community; and the investigation and prosecution of alleged fisheries crimes.
For more information on INTERPOL’s Project SCALE, please visit the Environmental Crime Programme’s website.
Image courtesy of the Pew Environment Group