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September 21, 2023

Refinitiv: Helping To Combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing

© OCEANA / Thierry Lannoy


Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which represents as much as 20% of the global catch annually[1], poses a serious risk to sustainable fisheries and marine ecosystems. As nearly half of the world’s population relies on fish for some of their food requirements, IUU fishing also threatens food security and can drive regional instability. Current estimates suggest global losses of illegal fishing may add up to $36.4 billion each year[2].

Tackling IUU fishing is complex for a variety of reasons. Fishing is, by definition, a regional or global issue which requires consistent fisheries management practises to be implemented globally. IUU fishing relies on the difficulty embedded in enforcing strong fisheries management practises across different countries with varying degrees of motivation or capacity to enforce them. Quite often, fishing vessels engaging in IUU fishing are betting on their ability to evade sanctions due to a lack of enforcement capacity and the ease with which they can mix legally and illegally caught fish.

There are strong incentives for companies to do their part in tackling IUU fishing. Dealing with actors involved in IUU fishing may result in companies violating international, national, and regional laws which may result in administrative, civil, or criminal penalties depending on the jurisdiction in which they are based and the nature of the violation. Considering IUU fishing is often interconnected with other crimes such as modern slavery and organised crime[3], there is a clear risk of significant legal complications together with the accompanying reputational loss, even if companies facilitated these actions unknowingly.

Given these potentially serious repercussions, companies should ensure they have strong internal screening processes to avoid dealing with both the vessels involved in IUU fishing and the entities and individuals facilitating this activity and related crimes. A critical part of tackling such crimes is access to the right risk reference data that helps them to make these decisions.

World-Check is a risk intelligence database designed for use in screening programmes for Know Your Customer (KYC), Anti-Money Laundering (AML), Counter-Terrorist Financing (CTF), sanctions, and Anti-Bribery and Corruption (ABAC) compliance. In relation to criminal activities, World-Check includes data on FATF predicate offenses. As IUU fishing is classed as an environmental crime, which is an FATF designated offense, and World-Check collates data covering actors associated with IUU fishing globally.

Our coverage is extensive utilising a substantial team of research specialists speaking more than 70 global languages, who understand the nature of risk in 240 countries and dependent territories globally. Our records are linked wherever possible to reveal relationship networks between vessels and their owners, front companies, and associates. Our data is also enhanced with several critical identifiers such as International Maritime Organization (IMO) numbers for vessels, corporate identifiers, date of births for individuals, information about changes in vessel names and ownership etc.

In relation to individuals, entities and vessels involved in IUU fishing, World-Check research specialists cover a wide range of actions of which some are listed below:

1. All vessels that appear on official IUU vessel lists released by 13 Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) and related organisations. These lists are also compiled, enhanced, and made available in a single platform by the non-profit Trygg Mat Tracking through its Combined IUU Fishing Vessel List which is also closely monitored by World-Check.

2. Country specific enforcement actions released by specific fisheries agencies in certain countries. Examples include enforcement actions published by Taiwan Fisheries Agency Australian Fisheries Management Authority.

3. All other IUU related actions appearing in the public domain including in court reports, law enforcement websites and reputable and credible adverse media sources in every country in the world.

World-Check currently has thousands of records in its database that are directly connected directly or associated with IUU fishing. Our data also suggests that almost 40% of our IUU fishing records are also connected to other crimes including organised crime, human trafficking and slavery, bribery, fraud, corruption etc, assisting our clients to identify in their customer and transaction screening other risks they are potentially exposed to.

Moreover, World-Check’s vessel coverage includes a number of vessels that might warrant caution for businesses for other reasons including:

1. Sanctioned and non-sanctioned vessels that are connected to countries or regions subject to embargoes or connected to sanctioned entities or individuals.

2. Vessels detained for non-compliance with Port State Control (PSC) authority inspections that are conducted in relation to violation of international maritime regulations implemented as per the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) conventions. Examples leading to detention include violation of international standards for the safe management and operation of ships for pollution prevention, violation of safety and environment policies, human rights violation and abandonment of seafarers, violation of international oil pollution prevention (IOPP), forced (slave) labour, non or under payment of wages, no labour conditions such as medical care, social security or other violations related to ship’s occupational safety and health policies.

3. List of vessels involved in various types of human rights abuse published by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

4. Special interest maritime vessels that are involved in FATF designated offenses.

IUU fishing is a major threat to global maritime resources and regional stability and businesses have a multitude of legal and moral reasons to try and put an end to it. Increasing coordination with diverse stakeholders, public and private, can raise the global attention on the challenges of IUU fishing. As a founding member of the Global Coalition to Fight Financial Crime, Refinitiv World-Check has a common goal of trying to end financial crime.

About World-Check:

World-Check provides rich, structured, well examined, de-duplicated, trusted, and consolidated information on heightened risk individuals and entities. The database is designed for use in screening programmes for anti-money laundering, sanctions, and anti-bribery and corruption compliance. Partner with Refinitiv World-Check Risk Intelligence database to help meet your regulatory obligations, make informed decisions, and prevent your business being used to launder the proceeds of financial crime or associated with corrupt practices. It can be accessed via an online user interface, via API and via a data-file. Companies need an appropriate license in order to access the data.


[2] https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/illegal-fishing

[3] https://www.americansecurityproject.org/iuufishingcrimes/