Study finds vessels well-known for illegal fishing able to get insurance

A new research from UBC reveals, rogue fishing vessels including those with an international record of illegal activities are able to attain insurance. Unlawful fishing, responsible for disappearance of tonnes of fish from the oceans, siphons an estimated $10 to 20 billion annually from the global economy. This is a huge problem that destroys habitats and makes fishing challenging for law-abiding fishers.

“Restricting access to insurance could play a major role in ending illegal fishing, and right now, it’s a largely overlooked method,” said lead author Dana Miller, who studied illegal fishing and insurance while she was a postdoctoral fellow at UBC.

Insurance is financially beneficial for fishers in the case of an accident since it eliminates the risk of large financial loss.

In order to prevent illegal fishers from obtaining insurance, researchers suggest insurance companies check lists of illegal vessels before issuing insurances.


Some ships flagged for illegal fishing are still able to get insurance. (Photo courtesy of:

The lists are as follows: regional fisheries management organizations’ Illegal, Ureported, and Unregulated (IUU) vessel lists, and the list of vessels that INTERPOL has issued Purple Notices for.

This approach is a much less expensive way to prevent illegal fishing than traditional methods,” said co-author Rashid Sumaila, the project director of OceanCanada and a professor in the UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries. Traditionally, fighting illegal fishing often  involves monitoring and surveillance, through the use of satellite tracking and inspections. The power of including the insurance companies in the discussion has been underestimated. By refusing insurance to unlawful vessels, insurance companies can have a major impact on the numbers of illegal vessels. Miller and her colleagues at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries investigated insurance information for 94 IUU fishing vessels and 837 legal vessels that were required, by international law, to have insurance because of their size. They identified the insurers of 48 per cent of the illegal vessels and 58 per cent of the legal vessels and often the same companies provided insurance to both illegal and legal fishing vessels.

Some of the most infamous fishing vessels were found to have insurance coverage. One example is the Bandit 6, a fleet of six fishing vessels, wanted for illegally transporting Patagonian tooth fish from southern waters.

Although the vessels were on internationally recognized lists like the European Union’s IUU vessel list for years they were recently caught in different parts of the world.

“It was shocking when we found that out,” said Miller. “Insurers should take the simple step of consulting IUU fishing vessel lists to make sure that these notorious and well-known ships are refused insurance.”

The authors recommend insurers mandate all vessels over a certain size to be assigned an international Maritime Organization ship identification number, and operate automatic identification vessel tracking technology . They added these these measures would increase transparency and tighten regulations.