In the report, Oceana found that certain behaviors relate to a higher risk of IUU fishing and human rights abuses, including:

  • AIS Avoidance: A South Korean-flagged fishing vessel, which has a known history of illegal fishing and involvement in human rights abuse cases, appeared to repeatedly stop transmitting its public tracking data, called Automatic Identification System (AIS). Oceana spotted 77 gaps in AIS transmissions by the ship along Argentina’s waters over a nearly five-year period, including four inside its national waters. One gap lasted almost 12 days, ending when the Argentine Coast Guard captured the vessel for fishing illegally inside Argentina’s waters.
  • Extended Time at Sea: A Taiwanese-flagged fishing vessel, where an alleged victim of human trafficking died during a 2011 voyage, remained at sea for an extended period of as much as 20 months from 2015 through 2017 while fishing in the South Atlantic Ocean.
  • Port Avoidance: A refrigerated cargo vessel was previously identified by the Indonesian government for its association with human trafficking, and in 2017, carried out an illegal transshipment off the coast of Somalia. After that, the vessel moved from port-to-port in an apparent effort to unload its catch and avoid sanctions after several governments shared information about IUU fishing.

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Weak oversight, poor international laws and lack of transparency make commercial fishing a vulnerable sector for illicit activity, the report notes, including IUU fishing, human trafficking and forced labor.

These case studies indicate that ships with histories of non-compliance can present suspicious patterns of behavior like evading public tracking systems, remaining at sea for extended periods of time, and avoiding ports known to enforce regulations. Recognizing these behaviors is the first step to highlight vessels that may be at a higher risk of engaging in similar activities.

Speaking on the findings of the report, Beth Lowell, deputy vice president at Oceana, said that:

Illegal fishers and human traffickers can no longer hide beyond the horizon. Tools like Global Fishing Watch allow Oceana and others to identify suspicious patterns and flag higher risk behaviors for further investigation. Fisheries managers must expand transparency of commercial fishing to deter illegal fishing and other criminal activities at sea

See further information in the PDF below