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Chasing Red Herrings

Flags of Convenience, Secrecy and the Impact on Fisheries Crime Law Enforcement

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Secrecy, or the ability to keep ones identity hidden behind a corporate veil, is a key facilitator of fisheries crime, includingtax crime and other ancillary crimes in the fisheries sector. Secrecy means that investigators “don’t know what they don’t know” and is a fundamental challenge to fisheries crime law enforcement. The focus of this report is the jurisdictions that facilitate secrecy in fisheries, the flags of convenience, and particularly those that are contracted out to private companies, the so-called private flags, and the impact flags of convenience and secrecy has on effective fisheries crime law enforcement. The report is 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. It was made possible with the financial support of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and the Nordic Council of Ministers.

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Executive summary

What are the impacts of flags of convenience and secrecy to the global effort to curb fisheries crime? In monetary terms, crimes in the fisheries sector – fisheries crime – are vastly profitable. A conservative estimate is that as much as USD 23.5 billion is lost to illegal and unregulated fishing each year. Still, the actual costs of fisheries crime to society, including tax crime and other ancillary crimes in the fisheries sector, far exceed the value of lost resources. Vulnerable coastal states lose out on revenue, employment opportunities and infrastructure development, and suffer the consequences of food insecurity, instability and loss of biodiversity.

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