14 JUN 2019

Oceana has published an investigative report it says demonstrates the power of technology to shine a light on possible illegal fishing and human rights abuses at sea.

Oceana used the Global Fishing Watch mapping platforma tool that empowers anyone in the world with an internet connection to investigate global fishing activity in near real-time, for free – to analyze the activities of vessels with histories of possible illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, forced labor or human trafficking.

Oceana found that certain behaviors can be associated with a higher risk of IUU fishing and human rights abuses, including:

  •     AIS Avoidance: A South Korean-flagged fishing vessel, which has a known history of illegal fishing and involvement in human rights abuse cases, appeared to repeatedly stop transmitting its public tracking AIS data. Oceana detected 77 gaps in AIS transmissions by the vessel along Argentina’s waters over a nearly five-year period, including four inside its national waters. One gap lasted almost 12 days, ending when the Argentine Coast Guard captured the vessel for fishing illegally inside Argentina’s waters.
  •     Extended Time at Sea: A Taiwanese-flagged fishing vessel, where an alleged victim of human trafficking died during a 2011 voyage, remained at sea for an extended period of as much as 20 months from 2015 through 2017 while fishing in the South Atlantic Ocean.
  •     Port Avoidance: A refrigerated cargo vessel was previously identified by the Indonesian government for its association with human trafficking, and in 2017, conducted an illegal transshipment off the coast of Somalia. Subsequently, the vessel moved from port-to-port in an apparent effort to unload its catch and avoid sanctions after several governments shared information about IUU fishing.

These case studies show that vessels with histories of non-compliance can exhibit potentially suspicious patterns of behavior, and Oceana says identifying these behaviors is the first step to highlight vessels that may be at a higher risk of engaging in similar activities.

The organization says human trafficking is the fastest growing transnational criminal enterprise in the world, generating $150 billion annually and enslaving an estimated 21.9 million people. Victims of forced labor are often isolated in inhumane conditions on board fishing vessels and trapped at sea
for extended periods of time
. Crew members can be subjected to a range of injustices, including physical, psychological and sexual abuse; unsanitary and unsafe working conditions; 20-hour workdays; lack of pay and even murder.

The investigation was undertaken with Liberty Shared, which recommends that:

Financial institutions providing financial services to participants in the fishing industry should conduct more contextual due diligence, beyond just seeking to check and confirm company and individual profiles, to actually gain information on current and potential issues in the fisheries in which their client is conducting their business, both directly and further up the supply chain.

Financial institutions involved in vessel chartering, such as lease financing, or involved in vessel insurance should also be clear about the underlying activities being conducted. Free open source tools such as the Seafood Slavery Risk Tool, GFW, and others to come, will all help provide context and increased knowledge.

Financial institutions must ask their clients about their client’s current risk management policies and practices. The increasingly transparent environment in fishing is very similar to the developments in financial crimes risk environment and confirming how a client requires robustness of their counterparties is vitally important. The complexity of supply chains and the weak governance culminate in high potential risk.

It is important for financial service providers to seek all transactional mapping information available showing movement of proceeds from suspicious criminal activities, media data on perpetrators, and vessel monitoring services available, as transparency from civil society and reporting technology is increasing the standard of what is reasonable knowledge, and reasonable due diligence is making both much more onerous. It is prudent for financial institutions to not be caught unaware; though money laundering fines do not happen regularly, when they do they can be very large and cause huge loss in customer trust.

The report is available here.


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