February 18, 2013

When shady war criminals flee their country and disappear into the world, INTERPOL gets the call. The International Criminal Police Organization, as they are formally called, coordinates police action on an international level, preventing crimes from slipping between the cracks of global law enforcement. In huge news for the future of our oceans, INTERPOL is now turning its attention to combatting the criminal and detrimental practice of illegal fishing. A global project named SCALE is launching at the end of this month to detect, combat and suppress fisheries crime as well as improve intelligence sharing between fisheries enforcement organizations.

Countries Identified with Rampant Illegal Fishing

Illegal fishing outfits are waging an organized, criminal war on marine life in our oceans. It is estimated that 20 percent of all wild marine fish caught globally are obtained illegally. The crimes usually entail underreporting of take, using illegal fishing gear, fishing without licenses and obscuring the origins of the vessels to avoid detection by authorities. And these operations aren’t run-and-gun banditry; they are highly organized fleets that utilize the latest technologies to catch, process, freeze and transport immense catches of illegal fish in all five oceans. Think of floating factories of marine slaughter that exist in the etherial arena of extra-nationality and lawlessness. It’s happening right now.

Interpol Headquarters. Lyon, France

Those days are fast coming to an end. Just as the lawless American West was finally subjugated to the gavel and various war criminals were finally put in trial at the Hague, the world police forces are uniting to end high seas lawlessness. It’s all coming to a head at the end of this month, when INTERPOL will host the 1st ever International Fisheries Enforcement Conference and Fisheries Crime Working Group at its headquarters in Lyon, France. This high level gathering will address questions like “What are the challenges of transnational organized fisheries crime and how can we fight it?” Fisheries managers from all over the world will collaborate and share strategies and information to build a future where reprehensible illegal fishing must answer to the law. INTERPOL will outline a program of National Environmental Security Security Task Forces that have real teeth to identify, apprehend and prosecute criminal activity on our high seas.

Anatomy of an INTERPOL National Environmental Security Task Force

The ocean community has rightfully bemoaned the lawlessness of the high seas for decades. Now, we’ve got the cops on the case.

By Brett Garling, Mission Blue

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