The Dutch Food and Consumer Safety Authority (NVWA) wants more control over the risk of fraud in the fishing industry. The supervisory authority wants firm action from the government, but also from the fishing industry itself. This is evident from the NVWA report ‘the fish chain in the picture’, which was published this month, and where fraud is one of the topics.
For example, NVWA writes that there are recurring signals of criminal collaboration between ‘shipping companies, sorting companies, (middle) traders and carriers in varying composition’. Engaging in fraud is both active and facilitative, whether enforced through bribery or not. These include signals about blacklisting of illegally caught fish, poaching and the administrative or physical cat over Adjusting the origin, species, quality mark or durability of fish species or improving the appearance, weight or mixing of lots of fish. of fish.
The motor power of milling cutters can also be tampered with. However, this would not be possible to determine: “NVWA is aware that it is possible for fishermen to manipulate the engine power despite being sealed without this being visible during inspection.”
No clarity on the extent of the fraud
The NVWA emphasizes that it cannot comment on the total extent of fraud within the sector. However, there are several obvious risks of fraud. In addition, the service says that the fishing world is quite closed and that the fraudsters seem to feel a little hindered. According to the NVWA, there is little business and social control and companies do not hold each other accountable for illegal behaviour.
According to the NVWA, the main motives for fraud in the fisheries sector are financial gain, fear of losing business and being ahead of the competition. “Additionally, the landing obligation, the pulse ban, the North Sea Agreement, Brexit and the corona pandemic are developments that have placed additional economic pressure on the sector in the recent period. This pressure can contribute to greater risks of fraud and the involvement of organized, subversive crime such as drug trafficking. “
Among other things, the service points to the notorious drug case surrounding Urk kotter Z-181, where crew members were sentenced to a year in prison.
66 fraud signals in four years
In the period 2017-2020, NVWA received 66 signals of fraud. These have led to 34 criminal investigations. Some of these studies are still ongoing. The figures for suspected fraud only show the lower limit, the supervisory authority believes: “The actual extent of fraud within a chain is often difficult to determine. First, because these activities are kept as far as possible out of the government’s view.” The service also emphasizes that it has a limited capacity to investigate everything.
In addition to the fraud signals, in the years 2017 to 2020, 280 official reports were also prepared for violations of fisheries legislation. These violations are minor in nature compared to the fraud signals that require more investigation. This concerns, for example, the violation of fishing rights.
What recommendations does the supervisor make?
The NVWA makes various proposals to better tackle fraud in the fishing industry. For example, the sector itself must be confronted with concrete examples ‘to stimulate the self-cleaning capacity’. There must also be stronger consequences for fraudulent companies, such as revoking licenses or withholding subsidies. In addition, there must be more remote monitoring, because the fishermen can see physical control coming to sea. Relevant ministries could take several measures against illegal poaching.
The sector itself could invest more in tackling fraud risks: “Encourage the mechanism of mutual corporate control and strive for a field where people hold each other accountable for risky circumstances or suspected violations of laws or regulations.”
The government will provide an answer to the report early next month.
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