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European enforcement and fisheries control authorities join efforts in tackling illegal fishing

Under the umbrella of EMPACT (European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats) and the priority of Environmental Crime, during the week of 03-07 May 2021, a Joint Action Day (JAD) took place, in the framework of Operational Action (OA) on Illegal Fishing. It was coordinated by Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR/PT), within the role of leader, having EFCA and Guardia Civil (ES) as co-leaders, teaming up with EU Agencies (Europol, Eurojust and Frontex) and Member States (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden). It aimed to contribute to the overall objective of identifying, deterring and disrupting illegal fishing activities and related crimes, led by organised crime groups. For this purpose, EFCA virtual coordination centre was activated.

Built on the results achieved and lessons learned during its first edition, organised in 25 September 2019, the second edition, which was supposed to be held in 2020, was postponed to 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation. Law Enforcement and Fisheries Control communities joined synergies by prioritising multipurpose and multiagency operations.

As a testimony of the righteousness of this option, the results speak for themselves:

Means put together:

  • 3162 Inspectors (Police, Fisheries, Customs, Agriculture and Health);
  • 260 vehicles;
  • 189 vessels;
  • 18 aerial assets;
  • 2 explosive detection dogs;

Main results:

  • 2248 persons, 12 vehicles and 194 vessels checked;
  • 64 crimes detected;
  • 185 administrative infringements;
  • 8 arrests;
  • 9 seizures (10 tubes of plastic explosives, 124 detonating caps and 20 m of wick, 4,5 T of trout, high-tech equipment, computers and documents, 167 illegal fishnets and 20 other illegal tools, 80 kg of fine clams, 31 kg of Norway lobsters, 6 T of sardines, 50 kg of immature fish and 48 kg of Bluefin Tuna).

All the participants were urged to foster sector bridging activities, involving Law Enforcement and Fisheries Inspections/Controls, to better understand idiosyncrasies of each community dealing with prevention and fight against illegal fishing activities at EU level, as well as to organise events to share lessons learned and best practises, serving as reference point to improve cooperation.

“The outcomes of this enhanced and coordinated approach with EFCA’s support, involving fisheries control and law enforcement authorities as well as EU Agencies, is a concrete example of the interagency cooperation, attempting to address food security, biodiversity, illegal fishing and related challenges our oceans and seas are facing at the moment. EFCA is committed to continue to build bridges and synergies between both communities, especially in the context of EU cooperation on coast guard functions" said Pascal Savouret, EFCA Executive Director