New publication

Illicit trade in marine fish catch and its effects on ecosystems and people worldwide

Lincoln Hood | Feb 26, 2020

Lincoln Hood

Feb 26, 2020


Sumaila UR, Zeller D, Hood L, Palomares MLD,  and Pauly D. Illicit trade in marine fish catch and its effects on ecosystems and people worldwide. Science Advances. 10.1126/sciadv.aaz3801


Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing is widespread; it is therefore likely that illicit trade in marine fish catch is also common worldwide. We combine ecological-economic databases to estimate the magnitude of illicit trade in marine fish catch and its impacts on people. Globally, between 8 and 14 million metric tons of unreported catches are potentially traded illicitly yearly, suggesting gross revenues of US$9 to US$17 billion associated with these catches. Estimated loss in annual economic impact due to the diversion of fish from the legitimate trade system is US$26 to US$50 billion, while losses to countries’ tax revenues are between US$2 and US$4 billion. Country-by-country estimates of these losses are provided in the Supplementary Materials. We find substantial likely economic effects of illicit trade in marine fish catch, suggesting that bold policies and actions by both public and private actors are needed to curb this illicit trade.


Acknowledgments: We thank all former and current Sea Around Us and Fisheries Economics Research Unit members for their contributions to the underlying databases to this work over the past two decades. Funding: This is a product of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit, the OceanCanada Partnership and the Sea Around Us at the University of British Columbia, and the Sea Around Us—Indian Ocean at the University of Western Australia. This work is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Oak Foundation, Marisla Foundation, MAVA Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Oceana, and the Minderoo Foundation. None of the funders had any input, direction, or say on the topic, analyses, or manuscript.