Tightening the net: the legal link between illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and transnational crime under international law
Fisheries crime is an increasingly significant threat not only to maritime security but also to the sustainability of marine living resources. Although increasingly recognized as a global challenge, its true scope remains difficult to quantify because of the elusive nature of these activities. To date, only anecdotal evidence and a few studies document the existence of certain aspects of fisheries-related crime. More recently, international concerns have escalated with respect to fisheries crime in response to reports on the opportunistic participation of transnational criminal groups in certain fisheries, and more importantly the increasing association with other illicit activities such as narcotics trafficking, arms smuggling, trafficking in people for forced labor, and the use of fishing vessels for acts of piracy at sea and terrorism. This article responds to the ongoing debate on the emergence of this new type of maritime security threat which is evolving to be an important global concern. It revisits the concept of IUU fishing within the context of international fisheries law and highlights the issues associated with categorizing activities that fall within the realm of fisheries management as crimes. It also explores the potential elements of fisheries crime based on concepts of transnational organized crime and environmental crime. The article argues that current practical measures undertaken by States to address the problem highlight potential synergies between distinct bodies of law that may be explored to develop an applicable international legal framework that will adequately address the problem. These areas of convergence are geared towards providing a clear definition and characterization of IUU fishing activities that fall within the ambit of transnational organized crime and environmental crime, strengthened regional cooperation, and amendments to domestic legislation that will enable enforcement authorities to combat fisheries crime.