Illegal Fishing

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  1. Economic Impact From 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.

Security and intelligence officials in Russia estimate that over $700 Million worth of crab is illegally fished and poached from its waters each year. Most of the boats that poach crab from Russian waters are registered in Cambodia or Sierra Leone with its crew being from Russia. Most of the illegally caught crab is transported to Japan and South Korea.

Fishermen in Alaska also report losing sales due to illegal fishing of crab. The trade group in the state reports that at least $560 Million was lost over the past decade due to illegal crab poachers undercutting their prices.

Source: Stephanie May Joyce, “Searching for the Russian Crab Mafia,” Bloomberg Businessweek, June 19, 2014.

Environmental authorities seized at least 186 tonnes of illegally fished bluefin tuna from the Atlantic in Italy, Spain and Tunisia in 2013, according to statistics released by the Pew Charitable Trust and Fishing boats from Italy accounted for 130 tonnes of the illegally fished tuna.

In an example of the type of smuggling that takes place, security forces in Italy broke up a ring that was smuggling nearly 38 tonnes of tuna that was worth $402,000 (€300,000).

The European Union allows 7,939 tonnes of Atlantic bluefin tuna to be caught each year.

Source:  Gwynn Guilford, “200 tons of illegally caught Atlantic bluefin tuna show how we’re driving these fish to extinction,” Quartz, May 30, 2014.

The seafood and fishing industry in Pakistan loses at least $50 Million a year to tuna fish smuggling, according to the WWF-Pakistan.

Nearly 200 tons of tuna is illegally smuggled into Iran each day through the Gwadar port of Balochistan.

Yellow fin tun is sold in Pakistan for up to $2 per kilogram.

(See more illegal fishing statistics here.)

Source:  “Smuggling of tuna fish to Iran costs $50 million yearly,” Business Recorder, May 13, 2014.


Security agencies in Costa Rica reported seizing about 4.8 metric tons of cocaine along the countries Pacific Coast during the first 4 months of 2014.

In all of 2013, security forces seized 18 metric tons of cocaine along the Pacific coast.

(Additional facts about cocaine.)

In addition to cocaine trafficking, the Public Security Ministry is also monitoring illegal fishing activities in the waters surrounding Costa Rica. Four vessels that was conducting unauthorized fishing activities were seized in the first quarter of 2013. A total of 9 ships were seized for illegal fishing in 2013.

(More crime in Costa Rica statistics.)

Source:  Mario Garita, “Radar helps combat drug trafficking, illegal fishing,” Inside Costa Rica, May 1, 2014.

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.