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FishFORCE and Norwegian partners sign agreement to train port security staff

Oct 31, 2018
FishFORCE and Norwegian partners sign agreement to train port security staff

Fisheries crime, or “multicrimes” affecting the fisheries sector range from illegal capture of fish to human trafficking and forced labour, fraud, forgery, corruption, money laundering and tax and customs evasion. These crimes pose a massive challenge to fisheries law enforcement agencies in developing countries across the world.

An aspect of fisheries crime that needs attention is port security, as ports are actively used by organised crime in a way that not only compromises safety but also threatens marine living resources.

Ports are undoubtedly key points of entry and exit for commodities associated with fisheries crime, for example the export of marine living resources and the import of drugs and firearms as well as other aspects such as human trafficking.

In a bid to address this, Nelson Mandela University’s FishFORCE Academy has entered into a “StopGAP” agreement with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is a small-scale project strategically aligned to the work of the Academy in curbing fisheries crimes.

Through this agreement, signed on Monday at Nelson Mandela University’s Ocean Sciences Campus, FishFORCE which will receive funding of 575 000 Norwegian kroner (R1-million) towards the training of port security officers, their supervisors and managers at South African ports.

FishFORCE and Norwegian partners sign agreement to train port security staff

FishFORCE director, Prof Hennie van As, says it is important to ensure port security staff are given the requisite capacity to help curb fisheries crimes.

“Port security officers are tasked with the control of goods entering and leaving harbours and they are on duty 24 hours per day,” says Prof Van As.

“However, they are not trained to differentiate between species and to identify whether fisheries products that are leaving the country are illegal or not. They are also not trained to detect tampering – and possible smuggling – with vehicles and containers or to identify illicit substances such as drugs that are often associated with the poaching of marine living resources.”

The training of port security staff is a means to reduce fisheries crime by increasing their ability to detect any criminal elements.

“It is a way of stopping a gap in the way we fight fisheries crime. That is why we call the project “StopGAP”,” says Prof Van As.

The “StopGAP” projects also includes a research component, with a number of postgrad students conducting research into where the bulk of arrests related to fisheries crimes are made and why there is a low prosecution success rate.

FishFORCE was established at Nelson Mandela University in 2016 and is a partnership between the institution’s Centre for Law in Action (CLA), the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).

Its main purpose is to combat sea fisheries crime and related criminal activities by providing training to those at the coalface of fisheries crime prevention, such as Fisheries Control Officers (FCOs), police officers and prosecutors in South Africa and the rest of Africa, as well as other states along the Indian Ocean Rim.

The academy has to date successfully trained 276 delegates in the Law Enforcement by Peace Officers (LEPO) short learning programme, delivering a total number of 14 training sessions, which led to the issuing of 250 certificates at a success rate of 90%.

For more information on FishFORCE, visit www.fishforce.mandela.ac.za.

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