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Training the front-line officers for better combat of fisheries crime. A mid-term review of the FishFORCE project at Nelson Mandela University, South Africa.

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Gunnar Sander
Gunnar Sander, Jorge Santos, Kevin Pretorius


FishFORCE is a project at the Nelson Mandela University that addresses fisheries crime. The core activity is training, supported by research. Training started with the front-line officers engaged in control activities primarily in the fisheries sector and has moved on to i.a. customs, police and the judiciary. The ambition is to gradually expand the activities into the neighbouring countries. IUU-fishing and related crimes is a serious problem in Southern Africa. It undermines fisheries management, is a threat against stocks as well as the peaceful life of fishers and villagers and deprives the states for large sums of money. So far, FishFORCE has focused mainly on coastal and small-scale fisheries in South Africa. In this sector, insufficient reforms of the fishery policy and other development policies have left severe socioeconomic problems unresolved. Poverty and distrust to the management system are major drivers for illicit fisheries and recruitment to criminal gangs. The project has paid too little attention so far to offshore fisheries, and to fraud, corruption and other economic crimes that probably deprive the South African state for the largest sums of money. Many officers in South Africa have received basic training. Advanced topics required to address crimes beyond poaching have received less attention. The training stimulates multi-agency cooperation by mixing participants from several agencies, and cross-border cooperation by inclusion of foreign participants in the courses. The Norwegian support has influenced the direction of research but has not managed to increase the volume substantially. The project has a small administration that demonstrates impressive skills in project management. It has delivered more than foreseen by less money, creating a budgetary surplus that is planned to be used the next year. While the training activities work well, it is hard to judge their societal impacts. The current results framework is unrealistic since FishFORCE has only marginal influence on the selected criteria for impacts compared to other government policies and initiatives. The project is about to expand in terms of involving more agencies, increasing advanced training and establishing offshoots in the neighbouring states. This has the potential to improve the capability of combating fisheries crime significantly if continued and supplemented by other initiatives than training. FishForce currently faces two major challenges: Firstly, it should pay close attention to the successful creation of sibling academies at universities in Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique. Secondly, it should shift its focus away from mainly coastal poaching to deliver the competences needed for also addressing illicit activities committed in the offshore fleet, organized criminal networks and economic crimes, often in an international context. This speaks to a need for strengthening the research component in order to understand the problems of IUU fishing and fisheries crime better, to assess the causes of the problems, to evaluate current government policies and interventions, and to help agencies develop compliance and enforcement strategies better adapted to meet specific problems. It is important to underline that the major responsibility for curbing IUU-fishing and fisheries crime lies with the governments in the region. They should develop proactive policies that reduce the need for enforcement. Within enforcement, states should prioritise regional port state measures and monitoring and surveillance supported by intelligence that can guide the use of limited enforcement re-sources. Norway may support such initiatives by direct government-to-government support as a sup-plement to the university-based FishFORCE project.