Illegal Fishing

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  1. Black Market: Illegal Fishing $23.5 Billion

News, information and statistics about illegal fishing, unauthorized catches and illegal hauls of seafood. Data about illegal fishing is collected from various criminal justice information and other public sources.

Over 42,000 marine turtles are estimated to be legally caught each year around the world. Nearly three quarters of those turtles are caught in the waters of Papua New Guinea, Nicaragua, and Australia, according to a study conducted by wildlife charity Blue Ventures Conservations and the Univetsity of Exeter.

80 percent of the turtles that are caught each year are green turtles.

Between the 1980s and 2014, over 2 million turtles are estimated to have been caught worldwide.

In Mexico, between 2000 and 2014, an estimated 65,000 turtles have been illegally caught and fished in the waters surrounding the country.

(Price of exotic pets for sale.)

Source:  Allison Winter, “Report Finds 42,000 Turtles Harvested Each Year by Legal Fisheries,” Environmental News Network, February 21, 2014.

Between 2001 and 2011, Chinese fishing boats caught an estimated 3.1 million tonnes of fish off the coast of Africa. 80 percent of the catch was unreported and fell under the illegal fishing framework.

The catch from Africa makes up most of the 4.6 million tons of fish that were caught by Chinese vessels between the time period. During the ten year span, the value of the fish was worth $12 Billion.

In addition to Africa, boats from China are active in the waters off South Korea. 4,605 cases of illegal fishing by Chinese boats have been recorded by South Korean security services between 2003 and 2013.

Source:  Christina Larson. “China’s Illegal Fishing Expeditions Threaten World Waters,” Bloomberg Businessweek, November 19, 2013.

The head of the National Fisheries Society in Peru stated that up to one million tonnes of anchovy is illegally caught in the country each year.

There are up to six million tonnes of anchovy that is caught in Peru each year, with one million being illegally fished.

The fishing industry is the second largest economic activity in Peru behind mining and employs 230,000 people.

Source:  Analia Murias, “One million tonnes of anchovy illegally fished, according to SNP,” FIS, November 8, 2013.


From 2003 to 2013, there have been 4,605 cases of illegal fishing taking place within the waters of South Korea by Chinese boats.

Out of the total number of illegal fishing cases, 3,228 cases were in violation by Chinese boats of fishing agreements made between the two countries. Since 2004, there have been 1,062 boats from China cited by South Korean authorities for illegal fishing.

In the first 9 months of 2013, there has been 266 boats seized or cited for unlicensed fishing in South Korea.

69 security officials have been killed or injured during the 10 year span battling illegal fishing.

Source:  Yonhap, “Illegal Chinese fishing in S. Korean waters total 4,600 cases over past decade,” Global Post, October 7, 2013.

Around 27,800 jobs are lost in the European Union each year due to illegal fishing activities. The job losses is equal to 13 percent of all jobs in the fishing industry in the EU.

Up to $1.4 Billion (€1.1 Billion) worth of seafood that was illegaly caught is sold in the EU each year. The illegally caught fish makes up 16 percent of the regions total yearly catch.

Source:  Gwen Guilford, “Can the EU stop South Korea’s fishing vessels from cheating it out of wages and jobs?,” Quartz, July 16, 2013.

According to the African Union, countries in Africa has lost up to $200 Billion to illegal fishing activities over 5 decades, and up to $100 Billion to oil theft between 2003 to 2013.

The losses are due to increased pirate attacks in the region. The Nigerian Navy reported in 2013 that up to 10 to 15 pirate attacks are taking place each month in the Gulf of Guinea.

Source:  Augustine Ehikioya, “Nigeria, others lose $300bn to oil theft, illegal fishing,” Nation, June 24, 2013.

125 fishermen in Singapore was fined in 2012 for illegal fishing activities across the country.

91 people were fined for fishing in non-fishing designated areas, and 34 people were fined for using live bait. Fishing with live bait is not allowed in Singapore due to safety and environmental concerns.

The National Water Agency stated that recreational fishing is rising in popularity in Singapore.

Source:  “125 fined for illegal fishing activities in 2012,” Channel NewsAsia, May 26, 2013.

Between 1998 to 2012, there were 72 suspected poaching and illegal fishing of endangered freshwater Pearl Mussel in the rivers of Scotland. 45 of the criminal poaching took place during the last four years.

The protected mussel was found in 155 Scottish rivers at the beginning of the 1900s. Due to illegal fishing, the mussel is currently found in one-thirds of the rivers.

Across Europe, around 90 percent of mussels have been killed in the 20th century.

The mussel can live for over 100 years and produce pearls that are used in luxury items.

Source:  Martin Williams,  “Rare pearl mussel at risk due to illegal poaching,” Herald Scotland, May 13, 2013.

According to a report by Oceana, the annual catch of Sockeye Salmon in Russia is estimated to be 60 to 90 percent higher than the reported levels due to illegal fishing activities. The illegal haul creates a loss of $40 Million to $74 Million.

Source:  Deborah Zabarenko, “Fish piracy costs $10 billion to $23 billion a year -report,” Reuters, May 8, 2013.

Due to illegal fishing activities, the number of sea cucumbers in the waters of Mexico have been decreasing. In 2009, up to 20 tons of sea cucumbers were available. By 2013, the number dropped to 1,900 tons.

Fisherman in Mexico ca earn over $700 a day from harvesting sea cucumbers. The marine animals are then sent to China, where it is considered a delicacy. A pound of sea cucumber can be sold for $300.

Source:  Karla Zabludovsky, “Quest for Illegal Gain at the Sea Bottom Divides Fishing Communities,” New York Times, March 19, 2013.