The truth is that the global epidemic of illegal fishing is unlikely to be resolved until we improve our understanding of it. And there appears to be no better way to do this than through the evaluation of the problem through the theoretical lens, body of literature, and issue experts that comprise the field of criminology.
At its most basic, the field of criminology offers four ways to greatly improve our understanding of illegal fishing.
1. Criminology offers us more realistic expectations.
The evaluation of illegal fishing as one of a universe of crimes can be quite helpful in that it might provide us with a realistic set of expectations for how we will ‘solve’ the problem.
Illegal fishing is one type of ‘green’ crime that includes with it poaching, illegal dumping, and a host of other prohibited actions that harm the environment. And this green crime is part of a much larger set of legally prohibited actions that cause harm to society, everything ranging from copyright infringement and securities fraud to rape and murder. Consideration of these ‘Law and Order’ type crimes suggests that 1) we will never put an end to illegal fishing and 2) significant amounts of illegal fishing will likely continue barring any revolution in fisheries enforcement.
In spite of the grave social problems caused by what are known as “Part 1” crimes (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, etc), these crimes still continue and a great many go unsolved. For example, in 2007, 1.2 million violent crimes were committed in the United States, and only 44.5% resulted in an arrest. It is generally held that arrest rates are even lower for crimes that require specialized knowledge, such as securities fraud, and I would suggest green crime like illegal fishing would similarly require a great deal of specialized knowledge that most law enforcement agents lack.
Many crimes also go unreported, so the true arrest rates are in fact quite lower than official statistics. For example, just 40% of reported rapes result in an arrest, but victimization surveys suggest that most rapes go unreported. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, the number of rapes reported by respondents is more than twice the number of rapes reported to the police. While it may be insensitive to compare sexual assault with something like illegal fishing, it should merit a brief consideration of how these two crimes are similar with respect to reporting. In the former, the victims typically have a disincentive to reporting the crime, while in the latter, the victim – the natural environment – is unable to report the crime. Both are therefore likely to be significantly under-reported and less frequently ‘solved’.
Given these figures, I’d suggest that a good starting estimate is that less than 1/3 of illegal fishing activities is ever reported to the authorities. And if we assume this type of ‘property crime’ is similar to other types of property crime, we might assume that a similar official arrest rate of 16.5% could be applied. This means that if we assume illegal fishing is like other types of crime, we might only ever reach an arrest rate of 5% or less for all illegal fishing.
2. Criminology suggests that education and trust are of utmost importance.
The low likelihood of stopping illegal fishing (given current technologies) suggests that education and trust-building activities are going to be key to ensuring global fisheries sustainability. The reason is that crimes can be conceptually divided into two types.
The first type is comprised of crimes that are mala in se, or inherently bad, and as such there exist strong informal social norms that mutually reinforce formal law to disincentivize potential perpetrators. Mala in se crimes include such actions as murder, rape, and incest.
The second type is comprised of crimes that are malum in prohibitum, or bad according to the law. These are crimes such as speeding or failing to register a rental unit with the municipal government. In Washington DC, at least, these crimes are common and wouldn’t typically suggest that you are a bad person if you commit them.
The moral difference between these two categories means that malum in prohibitum crimes are committed far more regularly and with less moral difficulty than mala in se crimes.
Now which category do you think illegal fishing would fall into? To facilitate this thought experiment, imagine that you are a poorly fishermen with a small boat and all of a sudden government scientists are telling you cannot fish half the year because local fish populations are overfished. You are unsure of how the scientists arrived at this conclusion, but you are absolutely certain that you have a family to feed. Would you morally struggle with the decision to fish during a closed season? I’d suggest that you would not.
Thus, it is likely that illegal fishing is viewed as malum in prohibitum by most fishers. To change this, it will fall to governments, NGOs, and enlightened industry members to educate fishers as to the moral dimensions of overfishing and improve trust relations between fishers and scientists so that the science is viewed as credible.
3. Criminology offers us research methods to conduct most structured and context-specific analysis of fisheries.
A quick review of existing illegal fishing literature reveals that analysis of the problem is mostly limited to a handful of studies that examine illegal fishers’ motivations in the abstract. They identify that fisher noncompliance is a function of diverse economic and normative factors. Yet the reality is that such factors combine with diverse fishery contexts to generate highly complex and idiosyncratic motivations to break fishery rules. Because of this, careful fishery and sub-fishery analysis is required to understand and address the drivers of illegal fishing.
And where are our research methods to come from? Criminology. The field has decades of experience studying the diverse motivations for such crimes as theft, drug trafficking, and even genocide. There’s no reason we can’t adapt existing research methods to fit the needs of fisheries managers, marine conservationists, and the fishing industry.
4. Criminology offers us possible solutions to the illegal fishing epidemic.
Finally, the field of criminology offers us a number of possible solutions to greatly reduce illegal fishing around the world. Technological solutions such as police intelligence analysis, integrated CCTV monitoring, and cell phone apps, and social solutions such as community policing and police-community engagement could go a long way to changing the ‘game’ for legal and illegal fishers alike. And thankfully, there is a considerable number of studies how these solutions can best be implemented and evaluated.
I’ve had an excellent three days here in Atlanta at the 2013 Ancestral Health Symposium. I’ve met many brilliant thinkers and inspiring people that have succeeded in changing their lives for better health and happiness. I also had the pleasure to present this year on the intersection of seafood nutrition and sustainability. The presentation was called “Fishy Business: How to Eat Healthy and Sustainable in the Modern Seafood Economy.” And as promised to those in the audience, I provide here a link to download the full powerpoint.
I’ll also be sure to load the video of my presentation once it is made available by the Ancestral Health Society in the coming months.
Please feel free to send along any questions.
There’s a great new report out from the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) on how to ensure success of the EU’s regulation on illegal fishing. As I’ve written before, the EU has rather progressive language to keep illegally-caught fish out of European markets, but it is not yet clear how well that legislation will be implemented. (The U.S., meanwhile, has weaker language and has never been applied in spite of clear evidence of repeat violations by certain states).
EJF’s report comes at a critical time as the EU decides what sort of real, on-the-ground action it will take to keep illegal products out of the country. The report is here. The most interesting takeaways for me are below, and all are accompanied by smart, common-sense reforms in the full report.
1. Patchy catch certification monitoring.
Spain, one of the countries implementing the law most proactively, has provided data showing that 56 out of 124,600 consignments have been rejected since the Regulation came into force in 2010 (0.04 per cent of consignments). This figure is believed to account for over 50 per cent of consignment rejections across the whole of the EU. On the other hand, some Member States are believed not to have investigated or rejected any fish whatsoever since the law came into force, despite significant imports from outside the EU.
2. Exporters of illegally-caught fish are likely sending their products to less-guarded points of entry.
Evidence provided to EJF by Spanish authorities shows a significant decline in the unloading of frozen fisheries products at the port of Las Palmas following the coming into force of the Regulation and the subsequent intensification of inspections. The number of visits by vessels using the port for services other than the unloading of fish has not declined.
3. Increased containerization is a challenge for implementation.
Another area where displacement of IUU fish is of increasing concern is transportation by container. There is anecdotal evidence that fish caught in West Africa is increasingly being transported by container…The Regulation excludes container cargo vessels from the definition of ‘fishing vessel’. Fisheries products transported by containerised cargo ships must be accompanied by a catch certificate, but in practice such ships are not subject to the same requirements as fishing vessels…In addition, a reluctance to open refrigerated containers may contribute to a lower number of physical inspections of conatinerised fisheries products.
4. Lack of attention to evaluating current implementation.
Analysing the quantity of IUU fish entering the EU or the impacts of the IUU Regulation is complicated by a lack of data. There is so far no public information on the number of ‘verifications’ of consignments across all Member States, or rejections of IUU fish.
5. Excellent summary of the regulation in action.
The Belize Fisheries Department has announced a moratorium on unmonitored transshipments of fish at sea for Belize-flagged vessels, effective immediately. This is very interesting and comes on the heels of the nationalization of its vessel registry which I touched on last week.
This advancement is strongly supported by EJF, which has long monitored illegal fishing, and the transshipments that conceal it, off the coast of West Africa. Earlier this year, in fact, EJF called for the banning of all the transshipment of catches in West African waters.
The moratorium will not end all transshipment by Belizean vessels. The Belize Fisheries Department banned transshipments on the high seas for Belize-flagged vessel with the exception of transshipments carried out in the framework of at-sea transhipment programs regulated by a Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) to which Belize is a party. Belize also banned transshipments at sea in coastal countries’ EEZ, unless the transhipment was explicitly authorized to take place at sea and can be properly monitored.
Why the change? The clear reason is that the European Union is threatening trade sanctions against Belize for its non-action on the illegal fishing conducted by its flagged vessels. Specifically, on 15 November 2012, the EU Commission warned eight third countries, including Belize, that they risked being identified as non-cooperative in the fight against IUU fishing. European Commissioner Maria Damanaki, in charge of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, described this as “a yellow card” to these countries who were urged to improve their legal and control systems as required by international rules.
Here’s a nice quote from Steve Trent, the Executive Director of EJF:
The complications involved in monitoring large-scale transfers of fish at sea, mean that any transhipment of fish from one vessel to another can hide illegal activities. Transhipment enables pirate fishers to launder illegally caught fish in to world markets and avoid detection. EJF welcomes the announcement by the Belize Fisheries Department that they have banned unmonitored transshipments at sea by Belize-flagged vessels; however, we’d like to see them go further and ban all transshipments at sea by their vessels in West Africa. This would show international leadership and is commensurate to the risks of IUU fishing in the region.
At the same time, we are calling for action by all Governments, international organisations and the seafood industry to address IUU fishing and urgently implement the transparency required for global fisheries to be managed effectively and fairly.
1. Did illegal fishing trigger takeover move? ”The Belize newspaper Amandala reported on the assumption of control over the International Business Companies (IBC) Registry and the International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize (IMMARBE), saying: “ … operations which were estimated to net the Government $11 million in revenues in this year’s budget.” In an article published on Tuesday, the newspaper continued: “A statement issued by the Government of Belize today said that the Management Services Agreement under which the registries were privatised comes to an end at the close of business today.” (Source)
I find this the most interesting bit of news in my entire summary. The management of Belize’s vessel registry was privatized 23 years ago and just like that it is moved back to government management. The article continues to suggest that this is a result of the pressure being applied on Belize by the EU, which named Belize as a possible non-cooperating third country in November and which recently threatened to apply trade sanctions if Belize did not address the illegal fishing being conducted by its flagged vessels. You can learn more about that below.
1. A Panamanian technical team travelled to Belgium to submit a document that confirms the commitment of the national government on the issue of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. ”The text was addressed to the head of the Directorate General for Maritime and Fisheries Affairs (DG MARE), of the European Commission (EC), Lowri Evans… in November 2012, the EC threatened to take action against eight countries and include them on a blacklist due to their lack of cooperation in the fight against IUU fishing. The warning was directed to Panama, Belize, Cambodia, Fiji, Guinea, Sri Lanka, Togo and Vanuatu.” (Source)
Panama is clearly nervous that the EU will apply sanctions to Panamanian seafood exports, many of which are likely caught legally. The question is if Panama is taking significant steps to address the illegal fishing of some of its vessels.
2. Maria Damanaki, announced the follow-up to the Commission’s ‘yellow card’ letters of November 2012 to 8 third countries for non-cooperation in the fight against illegal fishing. The countries had 6 months to respond but this deadline has now expired and some of them may soon face trade sanctions, the Commissioner warned. (Source)
I think this is really great news. This means that the EU IUU policy may well get some teeth, quite unlike the U.S. IUU policy which has never imposed any trade sanctions. The list comprises 8 countries: Belize, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Republic of Fiji, the Republic of Guinea, the Republic of Panama, the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, the Togolese Republic and the Republic of Vanuatu. Here are some good quotes:
For all of the 8 pre-listed countries, we are now in the process of determining the next step. The ones making credible progress will receive additional time to implement the necessary reforms and adapt their fleets. A mission is on-going in one country, Vanuatu, as we speak. The others have not been that cooperative until now. Their current attitude leaves me no choice but to start preparations for the next steps, which could entail trade measures to be adopted by the Council on proposal of the Commission.
In particular, Fiji, Togo, Sri Lanka and Panama have made credible progress. We continue cooperating with these countries, but not loosely. We do this within a clear dedicated framework.
3. EU blacklist must be expanded after EP all clear. ”The European Parliament today approved a new rapid procedure for listing countries not cooperating in the fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU). This clears the way for the Commission to add additional countries to the current list (1) and to publish the list of vessels involved.” (Source)
Great thoughts and comments from the Green Fisheries spokesperson, Raül Romeva:
The EU’s illegal fishing black-list is a crucial tool for clamping down on illegal fishing and MEPs have to day given the go-ahead to a rapid procedure for adding countries to this list. The Commission must expand the current list to include other countries for which there is clear evidence of illegal fishing, notably South Korea. With repeated cases of illegal fishing and related human rights abuses, notably in West African waters, the European Commission must add South Korea to the blacklist.
For you Spanish speakers out, there is also a great video at the above link of Romeva talking before the European Parliament. In the video he also mentions Russia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and China as deserving to the on the EU IUU list.
4. Iceland has resumed its disputed commercial fin whale hunt, with two vessels en route to catch this season’s quota of at least 154 whales, Icelandic media has reported… “this year’s quota had been set at 154 fin whales, with the possible addition of some 20 per cent from last year that were never hunted. Iceland also hunts minke whales, a smaller species. That hunt began in May, and so far seven minke whales have been harpooned, whaling officials said. The International Whaling Commission imposed a global moratorium on whaling in 1986 amid alarm at the declining stock of the marine mammals. Iceland, which resumed commercial whaling in 2006, and Norway are the only two countries still openly practising commercial whaling in defiance of the moratorium. Japan also hunts whales but insists this is only for scientific purposes even if most of the meat ends up on the market for consumption. In 2011, the United States threatened Iceland with economic sanctions over its commercial whaling, accusing the country of undermining international efforts to preserve the ocean giants. But President Barack Obama stopped short of sanctions, instead urging Reykjavik to halt the practice.”
Iceland’s whaling is an interesting case. Three countries—Japan, Norway, and Iceland—contentiously kill almost 2,000 whales annually. Japan exploits a loophole for ‘scientific’ whaling. So not technically illegal unless you amend the IWC. Norway, meanwhile, lodged a formal objection to the moratorium at the time it was put in place, a practice allowed by the IWC and which means Norway does not have to abide by the moratorium. Meanwhile, Iceland initially agreed to the moratorium and then it withdrew from the IWC in 1992, only to re-join in 2002 with a formal reservation.
Was such a reservation legal or not? This depends on your view of international law. The re-adherence of Iceland is discussed here. As you can see, it was a contentious issue and took a couple years to work out. It ultimately came down to a vote of 37 countries (19 supporting Iceland and its reservation, 18 against). But the procedure was fraught with disagreement and various decisions about what the Commission could and could not do. For example, could the Commission allow Iceland to vote on its re-adherence with a reservation? (It decided contentiously that it could and Iceland’s vote was the lucky 19th that sealed the deal).
In my view, it was contentious, but I believe that the decisions made by the IWC were legal since no review process followed to challenge the various votes on procedure. While many countries subsequently filed their objections, and three countries – Italy, Mexico, New Zealand – stated that they do not believe the IWC convention is binding between them and Iceland, there was no subsequent legal review.
And what about possibility that the IWC’s decisions were illegal as they conflicted with the law of the sea’s provisions for conservation? Well, it doesn’t look so good for people who want the whaling to stop. Minke whales are considered a species of ‘least concern’. Meanwhile, fin whales are listed as ‘endangered’, but a catch of 154 whales amounts to about 0.1% of the total global population.
1. US proposes stricter at-sea scale rules. “NOAA’s proposed stricter scales at-sea rules came about in response to American Seafoods’ violations but also because of technology advancements, according to a NOAA official. NOAA fined American Seafoods $2.728 million after the company allegedly under-reported catches of pollock on several occasions from 2007 through 2011… So far, NOAA has only issued a white paper proposing stricter rules. Kinsolving presented the white paper to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council at its meeting this week… However, the regulatory process realistically takes longer than people might like, according to Kinsolving. NOAA has to conduct an analysis on the cost of implementing the rules…“The biggest change, for some of the boats, is the need for additional video monitoring. The longliners already have video cameras up, so it will be about re-positioning some of those cameras,” Kinsolving said. Another cost for the pollock fishery will be software upgrades. “This involves software changes that will allow us to track…calibrations better. We can better determine if a scale is running at a faulty state and may not be accurate. The cost is something we will have to figure out when we work closer with the manufacturers,” Kinsolving said. After the financial analysis is presented to the council and approved by NOAA, the agency will publish it in the Federal Register. That will be followed by a public comment period and a 45-day cooling-off period before new regulations are implemented. New regulations likely won’t be in place until mid to late 2014, according to Kinsolving.” (Source)
I look forward to reading the financial analysis. It seems like this is a very commonsense measure.
1. Bluefin tuna quota exhausted early. “The bluefin tuna purse seine season lasting from 26 May to 24 June came to an early end this year for European purse-seiners. Member States involved in this fishing activity (Spain, France, Italy, Malta and Greece) have exhausted their quotas and have therefore closed their fisheries activities: purse seiners are back to the ports. During its last annual meeting in November 2012 the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) adopted a reinforced multi-annual recovery plan for bluefin tuna which enhances the sustainable management of the stock and introduces a number of new strict control measures: TAC have slightly been increased and as of 2013, control and traceability of bluefin tuna for both fishing and farming activities have been further reinforced. Therefore, this year the quota monitoring is based on what fishing vessels declare as well as on what goes in and out bluefin tuna farms.” (Source)
I’m quite please to read that fish ranching operations are now being inspected to ensure that illegal catches aren’t being laundered through them. Thankfully we don’t have this problem of ranching in other RFMOs, but then again, no other RFMO even comes close to having a catch documentation scheme such as ICCAT.
1. The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) on Tuesday launched its report “Sold to the Sea” in Madrid. ”JF said Spain was chosen as a platform to represent the report because as a fishing nation it has a unique understanding of the sector and the dangers faced by workers. Jose Manuel Trujillo, president of the Fisheries Section of the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF), said the International Labour Organization (ILO) Working in Fishing Convention (Convention No. 188) was important in stopping human trafficking and “slavery” on fishing vessels. He called on Spain to show leadership by ratifying the Work in Fishing Convention as soon as possible.” (Source)
The report is top-notch and I expect to post some excerpts soon.
2. Local officials are causing China to grossly over-report its aquaculture output, according to a respected local academic investigating the country’s agricultural statistics. “Dr. Yu Xiaohua believes that China likely accounts for as little as half the 60 million tons of aquatic product claimed in official statistics published by the country’s National Bureau of Statistics (and quoted in reports by international bodies such as the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization). In Beijing on research work, Yu told Seafoodsource that China’s system of political promotions is largely to blame.” (Source)
Though this is aquaculture, you can clearly see the systemic traceability problems and how this leaves many holes for illegal fish products to enter into China’s exports.
1. Illegal fisherman caught by Inland Fisheries Ireland. “FOUR men have been fined up to a thousand euros for illegal fishing. At a sitting of Fermoy Court this month two Tipperary men were prosecuted by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) following investigations of illegal fishing activity on the river Aherlow at Anglesboro on January 2. The judge convicted both men and fined them €350 and €300 respectively. The two men were also ordered to pay costs amounting to €418.90 each. IFI also successfully prosecuted two Lithuanian brothers at Killaloe Court where fines of €500 each were imposed for taking more than the legal amount of coarse fish on Lough Derg. Last year IFI fisheries officers carried out a surveillance operation on the basis of reports received from the public and local anglers on Lough Derg. The brothers, who were fishing mainly for perch from a boat, were doing so in manner that did not appear to be for recreational purposes.” (Source)
I really like that the surveillance operation was a result of reports from the public and local anglers. Again we see that fishermen can make terrific ‘eyes on the water’ to fight illegal fishing. A key question here. Do you get better “eyes on the water” type participation from recreational fishermen or commercial? My guess is that recreational fishermen may sometimes be preferable and this raises a question as to whether or not recreational fisheries are encouraged to overlap with industrial fisheries.
2. Two Hialeah Men Found With 468 Illegally Harvested Lobster Tails. ”Two Hialeah men were arrested after they were found with 468 illegally harvested lobster tails, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said. “They grossly exceeded the daily bag limit of six lobsters per person per day, which is in effect during the regular lobster season: Aug. 6 through March 31. Also, lobster must remain in whole condition. Separating the tail from the body before bringing the lobster ashore is prohibited,” the FWC said in an email statement. A total of 283 lobsters were undersized and one was an egg-bearing female, which is always illegal to harvest in the state, authorities said. They also had an undersized stone crab claw and a queen conch. Wildlife officials said it’s not stone crab season and queen conch are illegal to possess in Florida waters.” (Source)
This brings us back to the questions of who/what does more damage to the environment. Is it worse to have illegal small-scale fishing in coastal areas such as this or large-scale illegal fishing in the open ocean? And how do we compare the magnitudes of violations? In pounds or number of specimens? Or in percentage overages of individual quotas? In this case, these men were roughly 4000% over the daily catch limit during the legal season.
3. Officers face fish-dumping charges. ”Officers aboard one of two Korean-owned deep-sea trawlers berthed in Dunedin are facing allegations of illegally dumping fish at sea, brought by the fisheries division of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)The allegations stem from when the ships were on charter to a subsidiary company of Christchurch-based United Fisheries, UFL Charters Ltd, while fishing off the South Island for hoki and other species. This is the second time the sister ships, the 80m Melilla 201 and 68m Melilla 203, have been involved in allegations of illegal fishing, albeit with different owners. In late-2011 and 2012, both ships were embroiled in claims by their Indonesian crews over unpaid wages, and were held in Lyttelton’s port under a High Court order.” (Source)
This brings us to the ‘bad apple’ theory of illegal fishing. Are there simply bad fishing companies or or countries there? This is an interesting example of two Korean-owned vessels being sold to other Korean owners and then getting busted again for serious wrong doing.
It is interesting to ponder how little attention the world pays to the oceans. This other 71% of the planet is all too often ignored. I wonder if perhaps it is because we have such poor terms to talk about the ocean’s bounty.
So here’s food for thought. Consider our major protein categories and what species they comprise:
Chicken encompasses just 1 species: Gallus gallus domesticus
Pork encompasses just 1 species: Sus domesticus
What about seafood? This one term typically encompasses the 50-100 species most of us eat in the west…but there are in fact 15,000 species of edible aquatic animals.
Given the number and variety of seafood species, it seems to me we should all stop using this general term ‘seafood’ and start talking about these foods in far more precise language. If we borrow from The Sea Around Us Project (SAUP), we might better break down seafood into 10 commercial groups including flatfish, anchovies, crustaceans, and cod-likes (see here).