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Currently showing: Food security > Food industry

17 Jul 14 16:24

There are many factors that may compromise fish abundance. Some, like the effects of raising temperature, acidification, algal blooms or changing currents can be difficult to predict and act upon. But illegal fishing is one cause of stock depletion that can be addressed and controlled. Our grossly oversized global fishing fleets are engaged in a fierce effort to capture their share of a decreasing volume of fish stocks. This level of competition, plus a lack of effective fishing vessel controls encourage illegal fishing, organised transnational fisheries crime and cross-over criminal activities.[1]

Like other types of unlawful maritime activity, illegal fishing takes place with more frequency and intensity in coastal maritime regions that governments are less able to monitor, access and control. In these areas, legitimate economic activities have little official protection against the threat of abuse and crime.Large industrial vessels can illegally harvest vast quantities of fish that subsistence fisherfolk in vulnerable areas depend on. Local official corruption frequently results in the illegal operators being protected and encouraged to act again.

Given the efficiency of modern fishing vessels, protracted predatory incursions into the traditional fishing grounds of others may cause enduring fish depletion.[2]
The collapse of fish stocks and ensuing marine environmental degradation are good reasons to put illegal fishing control high on governments agendas. However, recent research by Markus Ludwig and Matthias Fluckiger, of the University of Basel, has highlighted an additional, compelling reason why illegal fishing should be stopped: Piracy. Narratives linking foreign illegal fishing as a driver for piracy are not new (see, for example, the work of Bueger on Somali piracy as a form of fisheries vigilantism in Somalia).[3]

However, the Basel University study is novel, taking a wide snapshot of data from 109 coastal countries on the strength of an original, objective methodology to draw its conclusion: That a significant decrease in fish catches can encourage piracy in fishing communities.The study found that a 1% increase in fish catches can result in a decrease in piracy activity by 1%. The researchers point out that detected increases in piracy activity are likely to be a reaction to the temporary lack in available legitimate income opportunities, rather than a willingness to engage in lifelong criminal careers.

According to the study, the effect of negative fishery productivity changes can be far-reaching, given the detrimental effect that piracy can have on maritime economic activities like transport and other trade. The logical conclusion is that combatting illegal fishing and prioritising policy measures to discourage it including the prosecution of those involved in fisheries illegality and crime may also be seen as tool to reducing incentives for piracy.

For access to the paper by Ludwig and Fluckiger, see .
[1] For more information on this topic, see Interpol’s Project Scale .
[2] For a recently reported example, see the case of the Fiji tuna fisheries .
[3] .
PHOTO CREDIT: Maritime Executive
Original Article:

Category: Food security: Food industry, Other


Rashunda Tramble - 22 Jul 2014, 9:47 a.m.

Hi Mercedes. This is great information. How does it relate though to the woman / man on the street? What can we do? Watch what we purchase in stores, etc? Anything else?

Mercedes Rosello - 23 Jul 2014, 1:06 p.m.

Thank you Rashunda, I am glad you found the article interesting.
You raise a very important question because each of us, as part of the wider community, are instrumental to promote change in the systems that serve us.

Firstly, we can work on supporting sustainability. By doing this we are not directly combatting illegal fishing, but we are supporting those suppliers who make an effort to operate sustainably and this is very important for the viability of ethical practices. Ultimately, the failure to control illegal fishing is closely linked to the kind of pervasive economic drivers that reward those that operate in breach of conservation laws and measures, so supporting ethical companies is very important.

A number of schemes exist whereby retailers and their suppliers can adhere to certain standards of responsibility and sustainability and label their products in order to attract discerning consumers. Successful examples are the certification scheme of the Marine Stewardship Council, the Fish for Life initiative or the Pole & Line label.

It is also important to know which fish species are being sustainably managed - this information changes over time, and a number of NGOs maintain lists to inform the public.

Further, we must never underestimate the power of questions. Does my retailer know where this fish comes from? What kind of boat caught it and what was its nationality? If the fish is imported, which country does it come from? It is much more difficult to know the provenance of uncertified imported, frozen or processed fish, so buying fresh and local is generally preferable.

In terms of what we can do as individuals specifically to discourage illegal fishing practices, it is important to send a message indicating that this matters and why.

Despite having attained more visibility in mainstream media in the past few months, illegal fishing is still a little known subject amongst most people, so simply asking others if they can be sure whether the fish they buy is 100% can have an impact (say, the chef in a restaurant, the corporate responsibility inbox of your favourite fish brand, your parliament representative, a friend who is a journalist or the supermarket manager). This is important because it fosters the creation of due diligence practices that may otherwise just not exist.

Being aware of the huge cost that illegal fishing inflicts on the fishing industry itself, on coastal communities and the marine environment, as well as of the links between illegal fishing and corruption, people trafficking, maritime insecurity and crime, and making others aware of these facts can only help.

Whilst it is tempting to think that illegal fishing is a matter for industry and government only, we as consumers help shape supply chains with our preferences. So, by becoming more discerning and more outspoken we encourage our suppliers to do the same.

I hope this is helpful - thank you so much again for your interest!

Rashunda Tramble - 24 Jul 2014, 3:08 p.m.

Yep this is helpful Thank you!

Alicia Montoya - 9 Aug 2014, 10:34 a.m.

This is exactly what I do at restaurants. First! I'll ask about vegetarian options. Although the situation is improving, many restaurants still offer no or only one vegetarian dish. By asking I signal to them that there is demand, and they should offer more vegetarian options.

When I order fish, I ask them about its provenance, how it was fished, and whether its MSC certified (if I'm in Europe. If I'm traveling, I ask them whether its line caught.)

I also I praise companies that engage in sustainable practices on social media (so other followers will know and support them for it)... And tell companies that engage in unsustainable practices why I no longer buy from them, and what they need to do to win me as a customer again. I do this publicly so a) they feel obligee to respond and b) others see it and also boycott them.

Alicia Montoya - 9 Aug 2014, 10:42 a.m.

The WWF publishes useful guides:

Here's the one for Switzerland, which helps understand which species are safe to eat (plentiful, not endangered), which you should avoid (endangered) and which can be eaten if sustainably fished. They also include brands that supply sustainably fished produce

Happy shopping and social media activation! :)

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