Fishy networks: uncovering those behind illegal fishing in global South countries

November 22nd, 2022

The Financial Transparency Coalition (FTC) and Fundación SES held a virtual event on Wednesday, 30 November 2022.

On Wednesday, November 30 The Financial Transparency Coalition (FTC) and Fundación SES organized an interactive panel discussion on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and the beneficial owners behind this illicit trade that drains US$23.5bn every year mainly from Global South countries amid a cost of living crisis. The high-level event presented the findings of a new FTC and partners’ flagship report based on the most extensive analysis of IUU cases to date and analyse whether financial transparency reforms can end this illicit trade.

The world is facing a major food security and environmental crisis as over 90 percent of assessed marine fish stocks are in danger, putting at risk millions of people’s livelihoods especially in poor coastal communities already affected by the current cost-of-living crisis and climate change. IUU fishing is the third most lucrative natural resource crime after timber and mining, with overall annual economic losses estimated to be US$50 billion.

Yet very little is known about the companies and individuals behind this illicit trade. Owners of industrial and semi-industrial fishing vessels often use shell companies, front companies, and joint ventures to conceal their identities. Law enforcement efforts therefore mainly focus instead on the vessel itself and its captain and crew as opposed to the beneficial owners, with small fines being applied, thereby offering no incentive for IUU vessel beneficial owners to stop operating illegally.

A new flagship report by the Financial Transparency Coalition and partners was presented in this high-level panel and based on the most extensive analysis of IUU cases to date, reveals that Africa and other regions lose billions of dollars from IUU fishing alone in Illicit Financial Flows and identifies the top companies behind this illicit trade. It also exposes the systemic shortcomings that enable those ultimately responsible for IUU fishing from being prosecuted.

Key players like the US and EU have recently recognised the importance of ensuring greater financial transparency in the fisheries sector, as a crucial means to end IUU fishing. For instance, the World Trade Organisation agreed to ban subsidies to companies involved in IUU fishing. Meanwhile, the EU has emphasised its commitment to promote transparency in the fisheries sector to identify those responsible for IUU fishing.

But are these efforts have any actual impact on IUU fishing globally? Can lessons be drawn from other sectors such as extractive industries where financial transparency initiatives are more advanced? What does the new FTC and partners’ report tell us about what is happening in the sector?

Moderator: Eryn Schornick, Strategic Advisor, FTC


  • Ndugu Mukasiri Sibanda, Coordinator, Stop the Bleeding Campaign in Africa
  • Gina Fiore, Officer, Ending Illegal Fishing project, Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Ms. Gabriella Kossmann, Senior Adviser, Oceans team, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD)
  • Dr. Patrick Ndzana Olomo, Policy Officer and Resource Mobilisation and Coordinator for Innovation, African Union
  • Alfonso Daniels, investigative journalist and lead author, FTC IUU flagship report
  • Nicolas Gutman, co-author FTC IUU report, Fundación SES

FORMAT OF THE EVENT: moderated panel followed by Q&A. Simultaneous translation into English and Spanish available.

Follow @FinTrCo