Fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

A decade of pushing investigations beyond invisible borders to disrupt the criminal networks behind fisheries crime.

Money laundering, labour exploitation, corruption and forgery are a small sample of serious crimes commonly committed during illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing today.

Unlike a decade ago, it is not just fishing vessel captains and owners who are responsible for present-day fisheries crime. It is largely down to business executives, public officials, lawyers, accountants and other white-collar professionals.

One kilo of Totoaba fish bladder is worth more than 1kg of cocaine on illegal Asian markets – a low risk high rewards alternative fetching up to USD 50,000 per bladder

These executive criminals create shell companies in offshore financial havens.  They conspire with accountants to launder money, nurture corrupt relationships with government officials, falsify regulatory documents, and consistently resort to forced labour on their ships.

INTERPOL established a dedicated Environmental Security Programme (ENS) in 2010.  This week, to celebrate the programme’s first decade of action, we focus on how INTERPOL has enabled countries in all parts of the world to tackle the wide range of serious crimes associated with the fisheries sector.

Fishing vessels are often also used to smuggle people, drugs and firearms, as well as to carry out piracy or terrorist attacks.

Tackling fisheries crime: ten years in ten feats

1. Greater police awareness: A decade of ENS action has helped the world’s police community to recognize the real threat of fisheries crime to national security and public health. Heightened cooperation and mentoring between developed and developing countries has improved global law enforcement’s capacity to detect  serious fisheries crime groups and put their members behind bars;
2. Stronger operational capacity: ten years of coordinating global law enforcement operations has helped countries to trace rogue vessels across maritime borders, collect intelligence, identify trends and risk indicators and triggered intelligence led investigations worldwide;
3. All-inclusive investigations: INTERPOL has worked with countries to identify and dismantle criminal networks associated with the fisheries industry, tackling entire networks, not just individual poachers.  For the past decade ENS has coordinated complex fisheries crime investigations across multiple maritime jurisdictions resulting in the detection of hundreds of cases of illegal harvest, processing and transportation of fish, triggering further investigations and asset recovery efforts worldwide. Investigative Support Teams (ISTs) are sent in to the field regularly to assist countries with INTERPOL expertise and police capabilities, resulting in a decade of detentions, convictions and penalties worldwide;

Did you know a 6-week illegal fishing trip to Antarctica can make up to six million euros in profit?

4. INTERPOL Notices: publication of a wide range of colour-coded INTERPOL Notices on fishing vessels and associated suspects, alerting countries to poaching, smuggling, illegal trade, food fraud, customs fraud, and public health issues as well as human trafficking in the fisheries sector and abuse of flag state registries;
5. Global police cooperation: Using INTERPOL’s secure global police communications network called I-24/7, police forces today fight fisheries crime together, beyond maritime borders, monitoring the global crime landscape for early threat detection, and conducting financial investigations to follow the money which drives organized crime in the fisheries sector;
6. Crime convergence: a decade of detecting links between fisheries crime and other serious organized crime, particularly fraud, corruption, tax evasion, forged documents and money laundering.  Although not so common a decade ago, human trafficking and labour exploitation are key pillars sustaining contemporary fisheries crime. With the victims, perpetrators and vessels originating from a wide range of different countries, only a global police organization can provide the kind of support needed to coordinate action at international level.
7. Addressing emerging trends: INTERPOL has spent the past decade working closely with fisheries investigators across the globe, sharing ideas, techniques and information on identifying and verifying patterns in fishing industry and associated crimes, particularly as it relates to the detection of and action against forced labour.  Crew members are often kidnapped, sold or coerced to leave their home countries to work as cheap manpower for the industry, suffering  food and water deprivation, torture, beatings and 20-22-hour days in brutal working conditions.  Some victims are trapped on ships for years on end with no means of escape. INTERPOL has created operational groups and information sharing mechanisms over the past ten years to boost cross border and multi-agency cooperation in addressing this.

8. Publications: Regular publication of globally recognized law enforcement manuals, such as INTERPOL’s Guide for Law Enforcement Practitioners used today by law enforcement across the world to tackle illegal fishing comprehensively. The last ten years has also seen the publication of operational and intelligence analysis reports on fisheries crime, including protected species, social media analysis, illegal fishing activities and port calls;
9. Capacity development: Regular capacity building events including mentoring have boosted global law enforcement skillsets in detecting, preventing and disrupting organized fisheries crime. We conduct extensive capacity building activities for our member countries to improve their effectiveness holistically, with regional and national level training events in all continents, which have led to more successful environmental crime investigations and prosecutions.
10. Improved recognition and credibility: INTERPOL has received medals of honour, awards and grants in recognition of its unique global efforts to permit countries in all continents to fight fisheries crime effectively.

10 years of impact illustrated in one landmark case: FV STS-50

This case – one of many similar cases carried out by ENS over the past decade – highlights the challenges of tackling fisheries crime and the unique role of INTERPOL in providing a coordinated international response.

Acting on a request from INTERPOL, Indonesia seized one of the world’s most wanted pirate fishing vessel in 2018 after it evaded capture in many countries.  Called “ANDREY DOLGOV”, “STS-50”, “SEA BREEZ 1” and many other names over the preceding decade, the ship was suspected of transnational fisheries-related crime including illegal fishing, document fraud, manipulation of shipborne equipment, illegal open-sea transshipments and serious identity fraud.

The vessel was a master of disguise. It changed its name six times, flew the flag of as many nations and disguised its electronic identification systems to confuse pursuers. For years it illegally fished across three oceans, misreporting the type of fish being offloaded to avoid sanctions, using forged documents to deceive authorities, retreating to the relative safety of international waters whenever the risk of capture was high. It is believed to have pilfered a total USD 50 million worth of fish from the ocean in a decade.

After a tip-off was received from New Zealand, INTERPOL issued a Purple Notice against the vessel for IUU fishing. Purple Notices are an important tool for fisheries enforcement as they allow police worldwide to share information about vessels known or suspected of engaging in illegal fishing activities.

ENS coordinated the exchange of intelligence between countries along the vessels’ travel route as it attempted to evade detention traveling from East Asia to Africa and back to Southeast Asia. After countless hours coordinating cooperation between dozens of collaborators across several nations (fishers, port authorities, government officials, and marine crime agencies), ENS was eventually able to alert Indonesian authorities on the exact moment the vessel entered its waters, leading to its immediate capture by the Indonesian Navy.

ENS coordinated global investigations, enabling countries from across the world to meet and discuss the evidence, prosecution and associated investigations. Findings triggered financial investigations which ultimately connected the ship to organized crime in Europe. It was clear that the majority of crew members were victims of labour exploitation.
ENS examined the evidence and intelligence collected on the fishing vessel—on-board computer systems, navigational instruments, and the captain’s mobile phone—enabling the global law enforcement community to piece together the wider criminal web that the vessel operated in.

ENS also helped law enforcement agencies in a number of countries to track down the criminals who operated the FV ”STS-50”, counterfeited its documents and had helped to launder its catches and the money it made.

Read : The hunt for the fish pirates who exploit the sea (BBC)

A decade of precious partnerships

INTERPOL recognizes the importance of strong partnerships in developing a coordinated response to fisheries crime.  Our activities against fisheries crime are all externally funded and dependent on sustainable partnerships.

INTERPOL works in close collaboration with governmental, non-governmental and international organizations to disrupt transnational organized criminal groups involved in environmental crime. These partners also help us to provide our member countries with technical and logistical support.

We would particularly like to acknowledge the valuable support from our Fisheries Crime Working Group (FCWG)  and our partners and encourage other national, regional and international stakeholders and the wider international donor community to support our vital work to stop organized crime affecting our environment.

Source: interpol.int

PRO-9 activates task force to combat organized crime groups

By Leah Agonoy

PAGADIAN CITY, Zamboanga del Sur – The Police Regional Office (PRO-9) has activated “Task Force Pink Panther” to boost security in “risk areas” and address threat groups in the region. Brig. Gen. Jesus Cambay Jr., PRO-9 director, who led the activation of the task force Monday, said the unit will consist of five task groups to secure the region’s coastlines.

In an interview Tuesday, Cambay said the task force will consist of policemen, soldiers, and personnel from other line agencies, especially those engaged in law enforcement, like the coast guard, and maritime police.

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Source: pna.gov.ph

PNG police arrest piracy suspects

PNG media reports that on Friday 31st July, three suspected ‘pirates’ were arrested after a failed attempt to rob a vessel in Milne Bay.

Following a tip off to police that a ship approacking the Kanakope Passage was to be boarded by robbers, a number of officers were deployed. When they reached the scene, the suspects were already onboard, attempting to rob the ship’s crew.

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Amid a Pandemic, the Jolly Roger Flies High

Asia, West Africa and the Americas experience upticks in naval gang attacks as the coronavirus pandemic stirs fears of increasing piracy.

By Kevin Drew

Late at night in the Singapore Strait, the five men quietly pulled their small speedboat alongside the bulk cargo vessel Vega Aquarius and climbed aboard the much larger ship. The men, armed with knives, were noticed by an on-duty crewman while they were on the stern of the deck.

The men rushed the crewman, who managed to escape after his cell phone was seized. Alarms were raised throughout the ship, deck lights came on and the ship’s full crew was mustered. A ship-wide search failed to find the thieves but revealed that two sets of breathing apparatus were stolen. The attacked seaman sustained minor head injuries.

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Source: usnews.com

Stable Seas report: What we know about piracy

SafeSeas is pleased to announce the first report resulting from collaboration with Stable Seas: What we know about Piracy

Authored by Lydelle Joubert, the report draws on desk-based research conducted between June 2019 and March 2020. It provides a systematic overview of data, answering the questions:

  • How is data on piracy and armed robbery collected?
  • By whom?
  • What kinds of information are available?
  • How accessible is the data?
  • What are the blind spots?

To download the report, please click here.

MarsecNews: This is a good overall read and covers the topic very well. Full marks to Lydelle and the team.

Global sea piracy ticks upward, and the coronavirus may make it worse

Suspected pirates surrender to the U.S. Coast Guard off the coast of Somalia in 2009.
LCDR Tyson Weinert/U.S. Coast Guard

Brandon Prins, University of Tennessee

In early April, eight armed raiders boarded the container ship Fouma as it entered the port of Guayaquil, Ecuador. They fired warning shots toward the ship’s bridge, boarded the ship and opened several shipping containers, removing unknown items before escaping in two speedboats. Nobody was harmed.

Ecuador isn’t exactly a hot spot of global piracy, but armed robbers regularly attack ships in and around the port of Guayaquil. It’s the seventh-busiest port in Latin America, handling most of Ecuador’s agricultural and industrial imports and exports. Ships moored along the port’s quays or, like the Fouma, transiting its narrow river passages are easy prey for local criminal gangs.

Only a few short years ago the international community was celebrating the end of maritime piracy. Worldwide in 2019, there were fewer attacks and attempted attacks on ships than there had been in 25 years.

But as the Guayaquil attack hints, pirates may be getting more active. Already, the first three months of 2020 have seen a 24% increase in pirate attacks and attempted attacks, over the same period in 2019. As a scholar of sea piracy, I worry that the coronavirus pandemic may make piracy even more of a problem in the coming months and years.

In a photo from 2012, masked Somali pirate Hassan stands near a Taiwanese fishing vessel that washed up on a Somali shore after the pirates were paid a ransom and released the crew.
AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh

Counter-piracy successes

Modern sea piracy often involves pirates in small fast boats approaching and boarding larger, slower-moving ships to rob them of cargo – such as car parts, oil, crew valuables, communication equipment – or to seize the ship and crew for ransom.

Beginning in 2008, the greater Gulf of Aden area off the coast of East Africa became the most dangerous waters in the world for pirate attacks. Somali pirates like those portrayed in the 2013 Tom Hanks movie “Captain Phillips” spent five years regularly hijacking large commercial vessels.

Three international naval efforts, and industry-wide efforts to make ships harder to attack and easier to defend, helped reduce the threat – as did improved local government on land, such as enhanced security and better health and education services. By 2019, the International Maritime Bureau reported no successful hijackings in the Greater Gulf of Aden.

In Southeast Asia, better aerial and naval surveillance has curbed pirate threats, with the help of improved coordination between national governments that share jurisdiction of the region’s busy shipping lanes.

As a result of these efforts, the global number of attacks and attempted attacks dropped significantly over the past decade, from a high of nearly 450 incidents in 2010 to fewer than 165 incidents in 2019 – the lowest number of actual and attempted pirate attacks since 1994. Ship hijackings, the most severe and visible manifestation of sea piracy, also have declined since 2010.

A return of pirates?

However, the Fouma attack is a troubling sign. The sea robbers seem to have had detailed advance knowledge of the ship’s cargo, as well as its course and the personnel on board. Those are clues that the pirates planned the attack, likely with help from the crew or others with specific information about the ship.

That sort of insider information is relatively rare in pirate attacks in general, but is common when pirates go after large cargo vessels and tanker ships, as happens in about one-third of pirate attacks.

Piracy in the waters off of South America – and off West Africa – has been increasing somewhat in recent years. Some of the conditions in those regions are similar to the ones that drove the Somali spike a decade ago: weak governments embroiled in political violence, widespread economic hardship and easy access to weapons.

Most piracy ultimately affects poor countries with weak governments. That’s because criminals, insurgents and other groups see opportunities to raise money for their land-based battles by stealing from passing ships. For instance, militant groups in Nigeria, particularly in the Niger River Delta region and the Gulf of Guinea, siphon oil off tanker ships and resell it on the black market.

With economic hardship striking Venezuela and Brazil, poor and jobless citizens may see opportunities offshore. Weak police and corrupt officials only exacerbate the economic problems.

The coronavirus weakens nations – and ships

The medical and economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic seems likely to pose severe challenges for countries with few resources and weak governments. West African and South American countries already struggle to police their territorial waters. Those regions have not yet been severely affected by the coronavirus, though infections are growing on both continents.

As hospitals fill with COVID-19 patients, the regions’ governments will almost certainly shift their public safety efforts away from sea piracy and toward more immediate concerns on land. That will create opportunities for pirates.

The disease may make it harder for crews to protect ships as well. Most merchant vessel crews are already stretched thin. If crew members get sick, restrictions on international travel prevent their replacements from meeting the ship in whatever port it’s in.

Slowing consumer spending around the globe means less trade, which brings less revenue for shipping companies to spend on armed guards or other methods of protecting ships against pirates. As a result, ships will likely become easier targets for pirates.

Even with the early numbers suggesting an increase for 2020, global piracy still isn’t as high as it was during the Somali peak from 2009 to 2012. But if economic conditions worsen around the globe and ships look like easy targets, more desperate people may turn to piracy, or ramp up their existing efforts in an attempt to survive.

[You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can get our highlights each weekend.]The Conversation

Brandon Prins, Professor of Political Science & Global Security Fellow at the Howard Baker Center, University of Tennessee

Cet article est republié à partir de The Conversation sous licence Creative Commons. Lire l’article original.

Piracy and armed robbery a threat to ships’ crews, warns IMB

Seafarers face continuing threats from pirates and armed robbers on the world’s seas, says the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB), reporting 46 attacks in the first three months of 2020, up from 38 in the same period last year. Pirates boarded 37 ships in the first quarter of 2020.

The Gulf of Guinea remains the world’s piracy hotspot. Seventeen crew were kidnapped in three incidents in these waters, at distances of between 45 and 75 nautical miles from the coast.

IMB’s latest global piracy report shows zero hijackings in the last two quarters, and no incidents around Somalia. But with no sign of a reduction in attacks worldwide, IMB encourages shipowners to stay vigilant, calling for continued international cooperation.

“Navy patrols, onboard security measures, cooperation and transparent information exchange between authorities, are all factors which help address the crimes of piracy and armed robbery,” said IMB Director Michael Howlett.

“The threat to crew is, however still real – whether from violent gangs, or opportunistic armed thieves inadvertently coming face-to-face with the crew. Ships’ masters must continue to follow industry best practice diligently and maintain watches. Early detection of an approaching pirate skiff is often key to avoiding an attack,” he added.

Gulf of Guinea kidnappings persist

IMB’s 24-hour Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) recorded 21 attacks in the Gulf of Guinea in the first quarter of 2020. Of these, 12 were on vessels underway at an average of 70 nautical miles off the coast. All vessel types are at risk. The perpetrators are usually armed. They approach in speedboats, boarding ships in order to steal stores or cargo and abduct crewmembers to demand a ransom.

While 10 vessels were fired upon worldwide for the whole of 2019, four already reported being fired at within Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the first quarter of 2020. This includes a container ship underway around 130 nm southwest of Brass. In another incident around 102 nm northwest of Sao Tome Island, another container ship was boarded by pirates. The crew retreated into the citadel and raised the alarm. On receiving the alert, the IMB PRC liaised with Regional Authorities and the vessel operator until the vessel was safe and the crew had emerged from the citadel.

“The IMB PRC commends Regional coastal state response agencies and international navies in the Gulf of Guinea region for actively responding to reported incidents,” said Mr Howlett.

With many more attacks going unreported, IMB advises seafarers in the region to follow the recently published Best Management Practices West Africa – BMP WA.

Indonesia: dialogue pays dividends 

Strategic deployment of Marine Police patrol vessels has resulted in a continued decline in attacks on ships in most Indonesian anchorages and waterways – thanks to positive cooperation between the IMB PRC and the Indonesian Marine Police (IMP). In the first quarter of 2020, just five anchored vessels were reported boarded. These are often low-level armed robbery attacks. The IMB PRC is monitoring the situation and continues to liaise with the IMP as well as other local and regional authorities.

Singapore Straits 

Five ships were boarded while underway in the Singapore Straits – where no attacks were reported in the first quarter of 2019. These low-level armed robbery attacks are a distraction to crews navigating in congested waters. In one incident the crew managed to lock their assailants in the storeroom, which enabled their later arrest.

Elsewhere 

Other violence against seafarers includes the kidnapping of five crew for ransom in an attack on a fishing vessel off Sabah, Malaysia in January 2020. In March, at Macapa Anchorage, Brazil, a watchman was confronted while on duty and held temporarily by a group of robbers. Meanwhile, in the anchorage of Callao, Peru, three crew were apprehended by nine robbers who boarded their vessel to steal ship’s stores. Two crew were injured during the incident. Callao recorded five incidents in the last quarter of 2019 and three this quarter.

IMB Piracy Reporting Centre 

Founded in 1991, IMB’s 24-hour manned Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) remains a single point of contact to report the crimes of piracy and armed robbery. The Centre has not only assisted ships in a timely manner, it also provides the maritime industry, response agencies and governments with transparent data – received directly from the Master of the vessel under attack – or its owners.

The IMB PRC’s prompt forwarding of reports and liaison with response agencies, its broadcasts to shipping via GMDSS Safety Net Services and email alerts to ships’ Company Security Officers (CSOs), all provided free of charge, has helped the response against piracy and armed robbery and the security of seafarers, globally.

Source: iccwbo.org

Ecuadorian shrimp farmers battling surge in organized crime

Shrimp farm in Ecuador, via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWTBXd6yfdw video by Manoj M Sharma

Extortion gangs targeting shrimp producers for the return of stolen shrimp, feed, boats and engines.

By John Evans

Ecuador’s shrimp producers are stepping up calls for authorities to protect them from a spike in organized crime that cost around $60 million (€54.4 million) in 2019 alone.

Producers reported more than 150 criminal actions against their property in 2019, including assault, robbery of shrimp, feed, supplies, equipment, boats and their engines.

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Source: intrafish.com

PNG: Boat captain missing after pirate attack

The Papua New Guinea Courier reported on Jan. 23rd that a boat captain was missing at sea after pirates attacked his boat in the early hours of Monday morning, near Alotau in Milne Bay province.

According to the media outlet, reports remain sketchy and very little information has emerged from official channels regarding the incident. Family members, posting on social media platform, suggested the boat, the MC Curringa, was attacked as it transited through Milne Bay at around 3am on Monday 20th.

They report that pirates attacked the boat and Captain, James Yakawa, who is now believed to be missing. The boat has returned to Sanderson Bay Wharf.

To read the article, please click here.

Rise of pirates in the Caribbean

By Rinsy Xieng

While pirates are becoming rarer off the Horn of Africa, particularly in Somalia, since warships patrolled the area, the number of acts of piracy and robbery is steadily increasing, with a sharp upsurge in Caribbean. For example, 28 events were recorded in 2019 off the island of Grenada, compared to only 3 the previous year. In the West Indies, it is mainly pleasure boats that are targeted.

Boaters and merchant ships

Pirates no longer hesitate to board large vessels, such as merchant vessels, even though the palm goes back to the Gulf of Guinea, where almost a third of the attacks took place there according to the report of the MICA Center, the center of expertise French Maritime Safety, which has just published its annual report. In 2019, for example, the organization recorded 360 events related to piracy and robbery. This figure has been stable for four years but less than it was 10 years ago.

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Source: rci.fm