Caught Red-Handed

Illegal Fishing in Western Indian Ocean

Human intelligence is a valuable, though sometimes unrefined, tool for identifying illegal fishing and associated maritime crime. Efforts to combat illegal fishing have increasingly utilized on-vessel tracking technologies—such as automatic identification systems (AIS) and vessel monitoring systems (VMS)—to monitor fishing vessels in real-time.  But AIS and VMS systems can be manipulated and turned off to disguise illegal activity. 

In response, Caught Red-Handed, a capacity building project, developed and led by Secure Fisheries and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Global Maritime Crime Programme, works with navies, coast guards, and law enforcement to systematically increase the value and sophistication of human intelligence in vessel monitoring datasets used to combat illegal fishing in the Western Indian Ocean. 

The project works with the FISH-i Africa Task Force, Regional Information Coordination Centers in Mombasa and Tanzania, and the Regional Fusion Centers in Madagascar and Seychelles to create better pathways for maritime domain awareness, information sharing, and increased enforcement of fisheries laws. 

Caught Red-Handed involves 11 in-country trainings -- Maldives, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Djibouti, and Somalia. The workshops will implement the Fishing Activity Sighting Checklist, which was agreed upon by officials from Somalia, Seychelles, Comoros, Maldives, Kenya, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and Tanzania in February of 2017.

The nine in-country workshops will cover:

  • Introduction to fisheries transnational crime in East Africa
  • Overview of regional and state efforts in combatting illegal fishing
  • Intelligence collection for fisheries crime prosecutions
  • Overview of the FISH-i Africa Task Force and Regional Information Coordination Centers
  • Best practices in intelligence sharing and chain-of-custody
  • Creation of standard operating procedures for gathering human intelligence on fishing vessels

The UNODC will support target countries by establishing a call center for implementation advice. It will also open a regional investigation cell to analyze reported fishing vessel information and for investigation and prosecution assistance.

Caught Red-Handed was picked as a pilot project of the U.S. Department of State’s Safe Ocean Network and is supported by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.