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Interpol Study Finds Ties Between Organized Crime and IUU Fishing

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Seized dried shark fins, Hong Kong (file image)

Published Dec 13, 2020 1:49 PM by Ankur Kundu

Interpol reports that fish and other sea creatures are far from being the only victims of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU). The International Criminal Police Organization, commonly known as Interpol, is an international organization that facilitates worldwide police cooperation and crime control. Citing close links between money laundering, corruption, and forgery, Interpol said that illegal fishing is often associated with these crimes in one way or another to maximize profit.

Illegal fishing accounts for a staggering 20 percent of the world’s catch, with rare catches fetching large amounts for those involved. Comparing illegal fishing to drug smuggling, Interpol said in its report, “one kilo of Totoaba fish bladder is worth more than 1 kg of cocaine on illegal Asian markets."

The Totoaba is a highly endangered species found only in the Gulf of Mexico. It is caught for its swim bladders, which are smuggled to China or other South Asian markets for sale on the black market. The demand for Totoaba is driven by its use as a business gift, investment, or wedding dowry, as well as its supposed medicinal benefits, according to The Guardian. The price for a sole endangered Totoaba fish bladder can go up to $50,000.

IUU fishermen in all regions are bent on maximizing profits from lucrative catches. Interpol reports that a single six-week trip to the Antarctic could net millions of dollars for illegal fishermen – a considerable catch for one trip to the most desolate continent on the planet.

In its report, Interpol noted the 2018 seizure of an Indonesian ship which was one of the world’s most wanted pirate fishing vessels. The ship was alleged to be involved in “transnational fisheries-related crime including illegal fishing, document fraud, manipulation of shipborne equipment, illegal open-sea transshipments, and serious identity fraud,” according to Interpol. The vessel is believed to have offloaded a total of $50 million in illegal catch over a period covering a decade.

Other crimes

The crime does not stop with illegal fishing. IUU fishing vessels are often also used to smuggle people, drugs, and firearms, as well as to carry out piracy or terrorist attacks, according to Interpol.

These illegal fishermen make millions of unaccounted cash. If you've watched a lot of “Breaking Bad,” you'd know that one needs to filter out their unaccounted cash to make it look legitimate. Here enters another crime - money laundering.

"These executive criminals create shell companies in offshore financial havens,” Interpol said.