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Crime in Australian Fishing Industry: Key Issues

NCJ Number
Katherine M. Anderson; Rob McCusker
Date Published
April 2005
6 pages
In focusing on stage one of a two-stage project that is examining the extent of crime in Australia's fishing industry, this paper presents the findings of a preliminary literature review; nationwide consultations with fisheries enforcement officers, police, and industry representatives; and a review of all State, Territory, and Commonwealth fisheries-related legislation.
Illegal practices by Australia's commercial fishers include nonreporting or underreporting their catch, co-mingling illegal with legal catches, operating a vertically integrated fishing business to facilitate money laundering, selling commercial catches to retail outlets and private individuals on a cash or barter basis, taking more than the allowable quota of fish, and swapping their catch between their commercial and recreational allowances. Attractions for illegal activity in the fishing industry are high-value fish stocks such as abalone, shark fin, and seahorse. Other emerging targets are eel, trepang, or sea urchin. Australia has a significant interest, both financially and environmentally, in understanding and responding to organized criminal activity in the fishing industry. The complex and divergent nature of fisheries conservation and management regimes across Australian jurisdictions results in a lack of uniformity in enforcement powers, degrees of offense seriousness, and penalty regimes. Fisheries legislation is designed primarily to regulate the fishing industry rather than to combat systematic criminal activity within it. Uniform legislation that applies to all jurisdictions might avoid displacement of organized criminal activity. Currently, there is no uniform financial penalty regime applied throughout the States and Territories. In addition to uniform legislation and enforcement policies, there must also be international support and cooperation. 2 figures and 26 references