Developing countries are losing billions of dollars to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which siphons off revenue through illicit financial flows, according to a new study by Coalition for Financial Transparency (FTC).
The study reveals that the top 10 companies involved in IUU fishing are responsible for almost a quarter of all reported cases: eight come from China – run by Nasdaq-listed Pingtan Marine Enterprise Ltd – one is from Colombia and the other from Spain.
Spanish tuna giant Albacora SA emerges as the largest suspected IUU fishing company in Europe and has received millions of dollars in subsidies from the EU and other sources, according to the report by a coalition of 11 organizations to non-profit. Neither Pingtan Marine Enterprise Ltd nor Albacora SA responded to a request for comment.
“Illegal fishing is a massive industry that directly threatens the livelihoods of millions of people around the world, especially [those] living in poor coastal communities in developing countries already affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the cost of living crisis and the impact of climate change,” said Matti Kohonen, one of the report’s authors and director FTC executive.
More than 90% of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted, according to the UN. IUU fishing is a major driver of destruction of the marine ecosystem and accounts for a fifth of global fishing catches, worth up to $23.5bn (£20bn) a year , the third most lucrative natural resource crime after timber and mining.
Overall, global losses from IUU fishing are estimated at $50bn (£44bn), according to a study.
Africa is the worst affected continent, losing some $11.2bn (£9.76bn) in revenue a year from IUU fishing while concentrating 48.9% of identified industrial and semi-industrial vessels involved in the practice, according to the FTC report. Of this total, 40% is in West Africa, which has become a global epicenter of IUU fishing.
Elsewhere, Argentina loses between $2bn and $3.6bn (£1.74bn to £3.14bn) in IUU catch per year, Chile estimates its losses at $397m (£346m) and those of Indonesia at $4bn (£3.49bn). annually, equivalent to the country’s annual net rubber exports, he concluded.
IUU fishing accounts for around 20% of the world’s fish catch, according to a 2013 Pew Trust Report, thus playing a key role in overfishing. The greatest declines in fish stocks are expected to occur in the coastal regions that are most food insecure and most dependent on artisanal fishing for protein.
In addition to the problems caused by food insecurity, Kohonen said developing countries are losing billions of dollars in illicit money flows due to illegal fishing as “vessel owners continue to operate with impunity. , using complex corporate structures and other ploys to conceal their identities and evade prosecution. ”.
The report warns that almost no country requires ownership information when registering vessels or applying for fishing licenses, meaning those ultimately responsible for these activities go unpunished – fines are instead inflicted on the captains and crews of ships.
It suggests that fishing vessel owners should be required to declare the ultimate beneficial owner when registering a vessel or applying for a license with regional fisheries management organizations, flag states and coastal states.
Collecting this ownership data, he says, would enable law enforcement to combat money laundering, tax and financial crimes, creating ways to address the underlying crimes and abuses related to fishing.
Asian-flagged fishing vessels – especially China, which has, by far, the the largest offshore fleet in the world – represent 54.7% of IUU fishing declared by industrial and semi-industrial vessels, followed by Latin America (16.1%), Africa (13.5%) and Europe (12.8 %).
At the same time, 8.76% of the illegal vessels identified use flags of convenience such as Panama and the Cayman Islands, which have lax controls and little or no effective taxes.
The report urges the EU, US and Japan – which together account for 55% of the seafood market – to step up their commitment to combating IUU fishing by eliminating the drivers that allow financial secrecy to produce in the first place, such as the use of shell companies, joint ventures and flags of convenience.
Worldwide, 820 million people depend on fishing for their livelihoods, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. In some regions such as West Africa, up to a quarter of the workforce works in fishing. Fish consumption is also a sixth of the animal protein intake of the world’s populationand more than half in countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Gambia, Ghana, Indonesia, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka.