Illegal fishing as a maritime security threat for Australia: implications, overlaps and responses

Jade Lindley1,
1The University Of Western Australia Law School and Oceans Institute, Crawley, Australia,

This paper argues that the security impact of illegal fishing is not well enough understood. Where it is recognized as a security problem, it is usually because fish are recognized to be a vital natural resource on which states, societies, and individuals rely; it thus has implications for economic, environmental, and human security. However, this understanding of the security implications of illegal fishing does not grasp the full severity of the problem. We argue that not only does illegal fishing cause security problems because of the importance of fish as a resource, but also because illegal fishing itself is extensively implicated in other types of maritime crime. Illegal fishing overlaps with smuggling of all types, including human trafficking and irregular maritime arrivals, weapons, narcotics, and other banned substances and with piracy. Because fish are a low volume, high value commodity, their illegal extraction can be used to fund insurgency and other types of political violence. Understanding how the crime of illegal fishing is also a security challenge will improve Australia’s national security policy. First, it unites the disparate regions of illegal fishing in Australia, all of which appear different; second, it creates the possibility of more effective enforcement; and third, it presents an opportunity for effective regional cooperation.

Dr Jade Lindley is a criminologist within the UWA Law School. Her research extends to the international law, regulation and governance of organised crimes, such as illegal fishing, maritime piracy and illicit trafficking. She is particularly interested in the Indian Ocean. She is also part of the UWA Oceans Institute leadership team, relating to the Maritime Security, Safety and Defence theme. Jade has previously worked in research within state and federal Australian government and for international organisations.


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