Over 200 participants from 57 countries took part in the 2017 FishCRIME Symposium, organised by UNODC, the Norwegian Ministry of Trade Industry and Fisheries and PescaDOLUS. Participants were drawn from the private sector, civil society and academia as well as numerous high-ranking government officials.

The Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries of the Republic of Indonesia, H.E. Ms. Susi Pudjiastuti, in her opening remarks drew on the example of the VIKING, a well-known toothfish poacher that had 12 owners and operated under 25 different flag States in just six years, to illustrate the transnational organised crime that is taking place in the fisheries sector.

The call to turn discussion into concrete action was made by H.E Pudjiastuti who stated, “We have to put the ocean right — together.” The Minister of Aquaculture and Fisheries of the Republic of Ecuador, H.E. Ms. Ana Katuska Drouet Salcedo echoed the sentiment and stressed the need for international cooperation and coordination. The high-level panel also noted the importance of addressing violations appropriately – having due regard for the law while ensuring that sanctions are sufficient to act as deterrents.

China participated for the first time and H. E. Xiaodu Wang assured the audience that Chinese fishing vessels must respect RFMO measures and that China is taking a strong stance against transnational organized crime in the fishing sector. However, she also emphasised that in China illegal fishing is not categorised as a crime and therefore appropriate sanctions that do not include the use of excessive force are required, she further noted that fishing in disputed waters should be viewed differently to IUU fishing within waters with settled sovereignty claims.

A recurring theme of the Symposium was the importance of “following the money” to identify and sanction beneficiaries, ensuring that they enjoy no benefits from their illegal activities. The secretive nature of fishing arrangements and company structures were also discussed and these are examined in detail in a new report ‘Chasing Red Herrings: Secrecy in Fisheries’, the result of the joint effort of the INTERPOL Fisheries Crime Working Group (FCWG) and the North Atlantic Fisheries Intelligence Group (NA-FIG), with the input and support of the Secretariats at INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Per Erik Bergh, representing Stop Illegal Fishing and the FISH-i Africa Task Force commented that, “The call for concrete action is encouraging and indeed real change is needed. We hope to see the need for concrete action reflected in the commitments made at Our Ocean 2017, to be held in Malta next week.”