Inadequate due diligence and beneficial ownership transparency facilitating US$23 billion illegal fishing industry

Lax supply chain due diligence and a lack of beneficial ownership transparency are amongst factors allowing one-fifth of the global fisheries market to be captured by operators involved in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, a new report from the Financial Transparency Coalition (FTC) and a group of 11 NGOs from across the world has revealed.

West Africa is the global epicentre of vessels involved in IUU fishing that causes developing countries worldwide to lose up to US$23 billion annually in illicit financial flows (IFFs) according to the report, Fishy networks: uncovering the companies and individuals behind illegal fishing globally.

Vulnerable regions and perpetrators

Africa concentrates 49 per cent of identified industrial and semi-industrial vessels involved in IUU activities, 40 per cent in West Africa alone, while IFFs directly linked to this practice every year amount to up to US$11.5 billion for Africa, US$2 billion for Argentina and US$4 billion for Indonesia

The report that claims to be the most extensive analysis of IUU fishing cases to date, reveals that the top 10 companies involved in IUU fishing for which there is beneficial ownership information concentrate nearly one-quarter of all reported vessels: eight from China, one from Colombia and another from Spain which received millions of dollars in EU and other subsidies.

Beneficial ownership unchecked

The report warns that almost no countries require information about owners when registering vessels or requesting fishing licenses, meaning that those ultimately responsible for these activities are not detected and punished, resulting in fines often being applied to the vessel captains and crew.

It says IUU fishing is the third most lucrative natural resource crime after illegal timber and mining operations and is a key contributor to more than 90 per cent of global fisheries stocks being fully exploited, overexploited or depleted.

Other key findings

Fishing vessels flagged to Asia represent 55 per cent of reported IUU fishing by industrial and semi-industrial vessels, followed by Latin America (16 per cent), Africa (13.5 per cent) and Europe (13 per cent) according to the report.

It says one-third of identified illegal vessels are flagged to China and 9 per cent use flags of convenience such as Panama and Cayman Islands which have lax controls and low or no effective taxes.

Recommended actions

The FTC and its partners are calling for urgent measures to improve transparency in the fisheries sector to fight IUU fishing, including a requirement for countries to demand beneficial ownership information when they receive requests for a fishing licence, fishing authorisation, joint ventures or registration to their flag.

They also want supply chain due diligence requirements to be extended across supply chains and to include IUU fishing and other fisheries-related crimes as part of wider due diligence requirements on natural resource crimes.

The report, Fishy networks: uncovering the companies and individuals behind illegal fishing globally, can be found here.


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