How Are We Fighting Illegal Fishing?

Written by on March 19, 2013 in Policy & Ocean Law
Illegal fishing vessels transferring their catch off the coast of Sierra Leone.

Illegal fishing vessels transferring their catch off the coast of Sierra Leone. Photo credit: Kieran Kelleher, NOAA.

As we mentioned in the first Weekly Roundup of the month, the international criminal investigation body, INTERPOL, recently launched a new unit to combat illegal fishing.

The new program, Project Scale, was officially launched on February 25 in Lyons, France. After a few more articles mentioned Project Scale, we thought we would give you a summary of what it is and how it will help fight illegal fishing.

Project Scale is an “initiative to detect, suppress and combat fisheries crime.” The main goal of the Project is to collect data on illegal fishing and create one place where all groups that are involved in enforcing maritime laws can gather and exchange information. It also aims to raise awareness regarding illegal fishing and to establish National Environment Security Task Forces that will help enforce laws.

Current data on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is severely lacking. Illegal fishing refers to anything from harvesting prohibited species or taking more than allowed, to fishing out-of-season or without a proper license. The ‘unreported’ part of the name implies that fish caught from illegal operations aren’t reported to authorities and therefore do not contribute to any fisheries data. This means that fish populations that we think are well-managed may not be because we don’t actually have accurate data.

A study published in 2009 found that IUU fishing could cost between $10-23.5 billion a year, or between 11-26 million tons of fish. We also know that the damage from IUU fishing doesn’t stop with decimating fish stocks–it also can have a big impact on the economies and food security of developing nations. And, according to INTERPOL, it has been linked to more serious crimes including money laundering, drug trafficking and even human trafficking.

In a statement regarding Project Scale and its new Fisheries Crime Working Group, Director of NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, Bruce Buckson wrote: “This group will bolster international cooperation in the global fight against illegal fishing and raise awareness of the negative impacts of fisheries crime on oceans…”

To learn more:

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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