Interpol Targets Illegal Fishing (Fall 2013 Trust Magazine)

Source Organization: The Pew Charitable Trusts

Author: John Briley

11/14/2013 - The Snake is a 230-foot fishing vessel that authorities say boasts a lengthy record of illegal fishing. The ship changed names at least a dozen times over the past decade, registered under the flag of at least eight countries, and now has made history as the first ship designated with a “Purple Notice” from Interpol.

The international police organization’s designation is a “most wanted” notice to port officials and other enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for the ship and gather more information about it to aid investigations into illegal fishing. The notice is part of Interpol’s continued focus on illegal fishing, called Project Scale, which is a partnership among the agency, the government of Norway, and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Norwegian government requested the Purple Notice.

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing is a significant environmental, security, and economic threat. This illicit activity results in 26 million metric tons of fish taken from the oceans each year. Those responsible also are often involved in other illegal activities such as drug and arms smuggling and human trafficking, according to law enforcement officials.

Fishing vessels are especially tough to track because, unlike merchant ships or even automobiles, they are not required to have unique and permanent identifying numbers. They can—as authorities said the Snake has done—change names and registration quickly.

“This is the first time Interpol’s network has been used to combat illegal fishing,” says Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, Norway’s minister of fisheries and coastal affairs. “Cooperation through Interpol is a new tool in the fight against fisheries crime, and I am glad that Norway has been able to take a leading role in this cooperation.”

The Purple Notice reports that the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organization have blacklisted the Snake, which means it can be denied fishing permits and port entry.

“This type of response—alerting authorities to suspect fishing vessels—is exactly what Pew envisioned when we decided to support Project Scale,” says Tony Long, who directs Pew’s illegal fishing project.

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