MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Sharing intelligence to support investigations to identify the criminal networks behind illegal fishing in Latin America and beyond was the focus of an INTERPOL meeting.
(INTERPOL PRESS RELEASE) Investigators from fisheries authorities and national police from Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico took part in the meeting to directly exchange information generated during the INTERPOL-coordinated Operation Pescam.
Targeting illegal fishing, high risk vessels and the criminal activity eroding the fisheries sector in Latin America, the nine-month (March – November 2015) operation was the latest in a series coordinated by INTERPOL.
These include Operation Spindrift (2014) which targeted the illegal transnational trade in abalone, or “sea snails”, through information and intelligence exchange among seven countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the UK and the USA.
Between April 2014 and April 2015, Operation Spillway led by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway and the USA targeted fishing vessels which were suspected or known to operate illegally in Antarctic waters regulated by the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
Through INTERPOL’s Project Scale, an initiative to support member countries to identify, deter and disrupt transnational fisheries crime, some 17 INTERPOL Purple Notices and 17 Blue Notices have so far been issued at the request of member countries to support national investigations in Indonesia, Malaysia, São Tome and Principe, Spain, Senegal and Thailand.
During these investigations, companies involved in a network of illegal fishing vessels were raided, nine people were arrested in two countries, and 17 remain under investigation on charges of organized crime, money laundering, document falsification, and crimes against the environment.
The captain and two engineers from one illicit fishing boat subject to an INTERPOL Purple Notice were recently sentenced to more than eight years jail by a São Tome and Principe court.
“This meeting will generate greater awareness regarding fisheries crime and its consequences, and the recognition that international cooperation is essential to effectively combat the increasing illegal trafficking of our protected marine species,” said Irving Vidal, Head of the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Mexico.
“INTERPOL’s support to Latin American member countries has increased in recent years, encouraging greater information exchange for intelligence-led operations which are effectively targeting criminal networks behind fisheries and other related crimes,” said David Higgins, Head of INTERPOL’s Environmental Security Programme.
The four-day (17 – 20 May) meeting was supported by the Mexican Criminal Investigation Agency and financed by the US Department of State, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and the Pew Charitable Trusts.