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Corruption as a facilitator of illegal fishing

Insights from East Africa

Analysis of industrial illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in East Africa reveals it is often facilitated by corruption. Evidence suggests this occurs through the abuse of power and position by ‘kingpins’. Wielding control through intimidation and sharing the spoils of corruption within established networks are common approaches. This enables corrupt industry players to secure illegal access to fishery resources and services and protection from oversight, investigation, and enforcement.

Also available in French
10 May 2021
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Corruption as a facilitator of illegal fishing

Main points

  • Corrupt networks headed by political or senior civil servant ‘kingpins’ facilitate illegal vessel registration, allocation of fishing licences, and access to ports and port services.
  • Alleged corruption incidents potentially represent transnational organised crime, involving multiple countries and a range of different public bodies, such as maritime, port, and fishery authorities.
  • Lack of interagency cooperation and information exchange can result in unclear institutional responsibilities, creating gaps in jurisdictions that can easily be exploited by corrupt operators.
  • Fishery agents, who provide services for vessel owners, are active in orchestrating corrupt practices across the region. They link up corrupt players, offering them protection, and pay bribes and arrange kickbacks.
  • Fish that is caught illegally – often facilitated by corruption – is likely to be whitewashed into the legitimate value chain if the illegal activity is not detected before the catch is transhipped or landed.
  • Approaches that may disrupt corruption in fisheries include: strengthening on-the-ground anti-corruption capacity; fostering national interagency cooperation and increasing international cooperation; improving oversight of fishery agents; and supporting regional monitoring, control and surveillance centres and task forces.

Cite this publication

Stop Illegal Fishing, .; (2021) Corruption as a facilitator of illegal fishing. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Issue 2021:7)

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About the author

Stop Illegal Fishing

Stop Illegal Fishing is working at a practical and policy level to support coastal, flag, port, market, and crew states to take action against illegal fishing. As an Africa-based, independent not-for-profit organisation, Stop Illegal Fishing works in partnership with governments, civil society, intergovernmental organisations, and the fishing industry.


All views in this text are the author(s)’, and may differ from the U4 partner agencies’ policies.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Fougerouse Arnaud