Illegal Fishing and Organized Crime: A Threat to Maritime Security?

Don Liddick, Penn State-Fayette

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing is a significant transnational crime problem that costs developing nations up to $15 billion in economic losses annually (Liddick 2011). Perpetrators include established organized crime groups as well as commercial fishing operations; moreover the incidence of IUU fishing is often shaped and facilitated by corrupt public officials. Various economic drivers, the exceptionally high value of some species, and the Flag of Convenience (FOC) system of vessel registration contribute to the significance of the problem. Negative environmental impacts involve the depletion of fish stocks, damage to coral reefs, and stress on marine mammals and birds. Social and economic impacts are severe as well, and are most especially prevalent in developing nations. While an impressive number of initiatives, public and private, have been undertaken to address the problem, the very conditions that give rise to IUU fishing render attempts to combat the problem quite difficult. Don Liddick analyses the problem of illegal fishing in a recent article in Trends in Organized Crime.


Global Scope

As much as 75% of the world’s fish stocks are either depleted or overexploited, with the collapse or near collapse of some fish species. While this depletion is caused in part by perfectly legal, yet irresponsible, overconsumption, it is also true that at least 15% of the total world catch – anywhere from 11 to 26 million tons annually—is associated with IUU fishing (Agnew et al 2009). In addition to stress on fish stocks and associated negative impacts on broader marine ecosystems, IUU fishing precipitates damage to the food security and livelihood of coastal populations. In Europe, perhaps half of all seafood consumed has illicit origins, and in some fisheries, illicit activity accounts for approximately one-third of all catches.

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Counter-Piracy Lite? The EU’s ‘Soft’ Maritime Security Drive in the Gulf of Guinea

By Brendan Flynn, National University of Ireland

Operation Atalanta (EU NAVFOR) has unquestionably grabbed the limelight as the EU’s most important contribution to combating piracy. However, that mission’s mandate ends in 2014, and while it may be extended it appears to be scaling down as the piracy epidemic off the coast of Somalia has much reduced. Does this mean the EU is no longer interested in anti-piracy? Not really, but perhaps the emphasis is shifting towards softer (and cheaper) maritime security initiatives.

This summer alone the EU’s Maritime Strategy has been published which includes anti-piracy as a key theme, although the document itself is a rather disappointing mish-mash of many concerns. Of more direct relevance has been the steady progress of a dedicated EU anti-piracy mission for the Gulf of Guinea the so-called CRIMGO initiative (Critical Maritime Routes Gulf of Guinea). This project is actually one of several “Crimson” initiatives which were pioneered since 2008 by the Commission Directorate for Development. These are tailored to specific trade routes, with ones for the Straits of Malacca, Indian Ocean, etc.

CRIMGO is very different to Operation Atalanta but rather closer to the EUCAP NESTOR mission. For one thing there is no question of any permanent naval patrols in West African waters by EU navies. Secondly, much of the action takes place on land. The core of CRIMGO is about training local maritime security and anti-piracy elites and developing capacities to tackle the problem locally. Note, there is no EU building up of the actual hard infrastructure to combat piracy, such as through transfers of vessels, aircraft, drones or others measures.

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What Drives Maritime Piracy in Sub-Saharan Africa?

by Brandon Prins, University of Tennessee

Southeast Asia once dominated the landscape of maritime piracy. From 1999 to 2004 Indonesia experienced nearly 100 pirate attacks per year. But just as piracy was receding in and around the Malacca Straits, attacks in the Gulfs of Guinea and Aden were on the rise. Indeed, piracy and especially hijackings exploded in the Greater Gulf of Aden after 2008 (see Map of Africa with incidents geo-coded). In a recent report for the Office of Naval Research in the United States, Brandon Prins examines trends in maritime piracy in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using newly collected and geo-coded data from the Maritime Piracy Event and Location Data Project (MPELD) Brandon Prins documents both the drivers of piracy in Sub-Saharan Africa and compares piracy to other forms of political violence witnessed in this region. He notes that given the tremendous social and political conflict occurring in many piracy prone countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, counter-piracy efforts at sea will likely fail.

Figure 1: Piracy Incidents, 2005-2013 (IMB)

Figure 1: Piracy Incidents, 2005-2013 (IMB)

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Pirate Ransom Negotiations: Resolving the Paradoxes of Extortionate Transactions with Somali Pirates

William A. Donohue (Michigan State University), Franziska Pugh (Michigan State University), Sharmaake Sabrie (Georgetown University)

Somali pirates take a very business-like approach to their craft. “We attack big ships that can pay us. However, after capturing several ships we have learned about what type of ships to target and which ship owner is able or willing to pay ransom money and the countries these ships usually come from,” remarked a pirate who was interviewed for a study just published in the journal of Negotiation and Conflict Management Research.

The study by a team from Michigan State University interviewed two former Somali pirates now living in Europe. They focused on how the pirates target and capture ships and then negotiate ransoms for the release of the ship.

The conceptual framework used to understand this negotiation process is termed Extortionate Transactions. The framework argues that these kinds of negotiations revolve around five paradoxes. The first two focus on how individuals view the circumstances that bring them into a crisis of extortion. First is the paradox of dispossession, or the more one has the less one has to lose. The hostage taker is both powerful (in the taking of hostages) but powerless (unable to affect change through legitimate channels) at the same time. Second is the paradox of detachment in that parties in the crisis are both attached and detached to one another and the situation simultaneously. They must work through one another to achieve an outcome, but they are detached in the sense that they dislike and distrust one another.

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Who Needs NATO to Fight Pirates? Why Europe Launched EU Counter-Piracy Mission Atalanta

By Marianne Riddervold, ARENA Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo

When the European Union (EU) launched EU NAVFOR Somalia (Atalanta) in 2008, it became the third multilateral anti-piracy operation established in the waters outside Somalia – all with military contributions from many of the same European states. The United States of America (the US) was establishing a ‘coalition of the willing’ anti-piracy force, the Combined Maritime Task Force (CTF-151). And in October 2008, followinga direct request from the UN Secretary-General, NATO launched humanitarian operation ‘Allied Provider’ to protect World Food Program (WFP) aid shipments to Somalia. So why then did the EU member states just one month later agree to launch an additional, and compared to the NATO mission, more long-term and clearly bigger naval military mission in the same theater? Why not instead strengthen and prolong the already established NATO mission? This puzzle is addressed in a recent article in European Security. After all, there is only a limited amount of military resources that can be deployed by the European states at any time, the EU had no previous experience in conducting maritime operations, and NATO has traditionally been the preferred security provider for many European states. Nevertheless it is the EU, and not NATO, who together with the US has taken the lead in the international political, military and diplomatic efforts to solve the situation both at sea and at land.

To account for this, in the European Security article I trace the Atlanta decision-making process in order to identify what factors led to agreement on this option. Data consists of interviews across the different EU institutions, different EU member states officials, NATO military staff and delegates to the International Maritime Organization, as well as official and informal documents from the same institutions and from different EU and NATO member states.

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A Two-Way Street: Organizing Intelligence Cooperation for the Maritime Transport Industry

By Hassan M. Eltaher

Threats to the maritime industry include threats to ships/vessels, ports, port facilities, passenger terminals, national and international waterways including their locks and approaches; international straits and multinational rivers; navigation facilities; waterside and landside moorings; human and multi-modal vehicular traffic; seaplane operations, and finally threats to Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs). To organize a pre-emptive, protective, defensive and problem-solving security network for a country-wide coverage of such expanses surely calls for sophisticated functional and well-tested security and intelligence systems. Some threats are occasional, others are recurrent, accidental or endemic to a particular region, and the reasons behind them are diverse. Planning and reacting to the variety of threats calls for different approaches, a good chunk of which relies on how intelligence is organized, shared and handled in cooperation with other players such as the military, the Department of Transport, the political leadership, and industry stakeholders. In this contribution Hassan M. Eltaher, the author of “Aviation & Maritime Security Intelligence”, provides a few insights into how this process is to be organized.

Transportation security and intelligence: a two-way street

Transportation security, and especially the important intelligence function within it must be treated and managed as a whole, albeit with distinct modules by mode of transportation under one centralized umbrella. In other words, transportation security must be multi-modal, but managed by one team of security and intelligence professionals at the top, and threat information touching any module must be shared by all the modules among themselves. This should ensure proper balancing between operational efficiency requirements, national security but also commercial viability.

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