This summer, RUSI will undertake a new research programme in collaboration with The Pew Charitable Trusts to investigate the security dimensions of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The initiative has been conceived in response to the threat posed by IUU fishing in hotspots such as the Western Indian Ocean. Here, as elsewhere, IUU fishing has generally been treated as a simple regulatory issue. Yet there is growing evidence that, in many of its manifestations, it constitutes an increasingly sophisticated form of transnational organised crime.
Indeed, current responses to IUU fishing based on minimal fines for regulatory transgressions ignore the extent to which activities take place on a systematic and organised scale across vast areas. This activity increasingly involves sophisticated cooperation between criminal groups across jurisdictions, and large-scale investment in enabling infrastructure.
These developments – and the failure of responses to keep pace – have transformed IUU fishing into a low-risk, high-return activity, with little deterrence to perpetrators. Meanwhile, far from merely a harmless lack of regulatory compliance, IUU fishing can involve a range of violent and destructive practices. These often overlap with other forms of illegal activity, from human trafficking to drug trafficking, labour law abuses and money laundering.
Despite gradually increasing awareness of these issues, few systematic studies have explored in detail the security dimensions of IUU fishing as a form of transnational organised crime. This project seeks to fill this knowledge gap through a global study of these dynamics, with particular reference to the Western Indian Ocean.