Fisheries crime

Fisheries crime threatens food security and undermines the sustainability of our oceans.

The issues

Our oceans are a key source of food and employment for millions of us around the world, but fish stocks are being depleted, making fish a valuable commodity. Organized, transnational criminal groups are increasingly turning to illegal fishing, which is threatening food security, and the economic, social and political stability of coastal nations.

The illegal activity does not stop at fishing - criminals use fishing vessels to traffic drugs and people, because their nomadic navigation patterns and long periods at sea make it easy for these vessels to blend into the maritime background without suspicion. Criminal networks also use the proceeds of large-scale commercial fishing to finance other illegal activities.

Our response

The INTERPOL Global Fisheries Enforcement team assists agencies in our member countries to detect, suppress and combat fisheries crime. We work to ensure the traceability and legality of fish along all points of the supply chain, and conduct operations to stop the networks responsible for these crimes in their tracks.

The team assesses the needs of law enforcement in vulnerable member countries and provides tools and support to ensure they can disrupt trafficking routes and enforce national fisheries laws.

We work to enhance cooperation and innovation to prevent and fight fisheries crime. We work with our member countries along all points of the fisheries supply chain, both on shore and at sea, to raise awareness about the impact fisheries crime can have. Our intelligence officers aim to tackle entire criminal networks, not just individual poachers.

The team has assisted countries to detain illegal fishing vessels, prosecute members of criminal groups and uncover non-fisheries crimes intended to launder profits from illicit fishing activities.


Operation Spindrift (2014)

This operation targeted the illegal transnational trade in abalone (sea snails) through information and intelligence exchange among seven countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the UK and the USA. Participating agencies recommended ways to improve reporting, monitoring and operational procedure.

Fisheries Crime Working Group

Our Fisheries Crime Working Group is an international platform for sharing expertise and experience, and developing innovative policing approaches to fisheries crime. The group engages with fisheries and tax authorities, customs, police, navies and coastguards, as well as the private sectors and non-governmental organizations to coordinate operations to bring down crime networks involved in these crimes. The group assists member countries to gather and analyze intelligence, and exchange information with the international fisheries enforcement community.