The Arafura and Timor Seas Ecosystem Action Phase II (ATSEA-2) Project supported the Regional Plan of Action to Promote Responsible Fishing Practices including to Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Practices in the Region (RPOA-IUU) to organise the Advanced Fisheries Intelligence Training on 20 to 23 February 2024 in a hybrid format. The training underlines strategic global collaboration that was built upon previous training initiated in April 2022 and discussions from a Focus Group in June 2023. It was attended by 42 participants from 11 RPOA-IUU participating countries: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste dan Vietnam.

The training aims to enhance national capacities in intelligence-based analysis and interpretation of fisheries data, improve fisheries officers’ practical skills for intelligence-led actions against IUU fishing, enable effective decision-making through intelligence insights, and foster an international platform for exchanging successful strategies to combat IUU fishing modus operandi.

Dr Handoko Adi Susanto, ATSEA-2 Regional Project Manager, delivers welcome remarks
at the Advanced Fisheries Intelligence Training

Dr Handoko Adi Susanto, ATSEA-2 Regional Project Manager and Eko Rudianto, Deputy Executive Director of the RPOA-IUU Secretariat, opened the training by highlighting the significance of transforming data into actionable intelligence for fisheries management at the opening of the training. Dr Susanto emphasised, “There is an increasing demand to discover and enhance avenues for collecting information from both state and non-state entities, transforming it into actionable intelligence, evidence, and witness testimony.”

Rudianto stressed the value of intelligence-led systems for transparency and effective planning in combating IUU fishing. Together, they advocated for a unified strategy in data analysis, reinforcing intelligence-led approaches as essential for sustainable fisheries management and addressing regional environmental challenges.

The training was delivered by nine experts from Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), INTERPOL, and the Joint Analytical Cell (JAC – a collaborative initiative established by the IMCS Network in partnership with TM-Tracking and Global Fishing Watch). The first sessions from DFO and JAC provided a comprehensive overview of fisheries intelligence methodologies aimed at combating illegal fishing activities. Sessions delved into key concepts such as the Fisheries Intelligence Cycle, data categorisation, and utilising open-source tools for intelligence gathering. From the sessions, participants gained insights into the importance of standardised reporting systems and collaborative efforts between agencies to enhance the effectiveness of fisheries protection measures. Presentations also highlighted the integration of technology and human intelligence as critical components for successful enforcement strategies.

Moreover, sessions from INTERPOL underscored the intricate nature of transnational fisheries crime and the imperative of multi-agency cooperation in addressing it. The sessions emphasised the significance of intelligence-led approaches and global law enforcement collaborations in tackling challenges like flags of convenience and shell companies commonly associated with illegal fishing operations. The sessions provided an in-depth understanding of INTERPOL’s tools and capabilities, including criminal intelligence analysis and operational support teams, as essential assets in the fight against IUU fishing and related crimes.

Lastly, case studies presented by DFO and JAC offered concrete examples of the strategic use of intelligence in law enforcement efforts. These studies illustrated how targeted asset deployment and the utilisation of open-source intelligence, such as tracking vessel activities, have led to increased awareness of illegal fishing operations. The sessions highlighted the importance of data analysis and international collaboration in effectively combating IUU fishing and ensuring the sustainability of marine resources.

A particularly enriching segment of the training was the presentations by representatives from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam. These presentations offered a window into the national strategies and best practices employed to combat IUU fishing. From detailing MCS activities to discussing legal reforms, technological advancements, and international collaboration efforts, the presentations reflected a rich tapestry of approaches unified in their goal to tackle the issue effectively.

Group picture of the Advanced Fisheries Intelligence Training Participants

As the training concluded, the positive feedback from attendees marks its success in meeting its goals. Amrih Joko Waspada, a participant from Indonesia, shared his enthusiasm, saying, “Participating in this training was a great honour for me. The content and approaches presented are incredibly valuable for addressing IUU fishing in Indonesia.” He elaborated on his learning experience, noting, “The training introduced me to various methods to combat IUU fishing across RPOA-IUU participating countries. I believe that strengthening MCS practices is a highly effective strategy for tackling IUU fishing in our waters.”

Based on the evaluation of the training session, the majority of participants confirmed that the training significantly enhanced their knowledge and skills, providing them with new insights critical to their existing roles and responsibilities. This positive feedback highlights the training’s effectiveness in delivering essential competencies and perspectives to participants, thereby better equipping them for their duties. Specifically, the intelligence cycle and process, the intelligence-led operating model and the tools for fisheries intelligence emerged as the top three aspects according to the participants. These elements stood out for their role in promoting a strategic approach to fisheries management and enforcement, reflecting the training’s success in meeting the immediate and strategic needs of professionals in the field of fisheries regulation and conservation.

The training highlighted the importance of distinguishing between data, information, and intelligence in fisheries management and highlighted the crucial role of technology in enhancing MCS operations. A significant outcome was the collective agreement on the need for a regional mechanism for data sharing and the commitment of participating countries to strengthen their intelligence capabilities, including the exploration of establishing dedicated intelligence units in each country.

This move marks a key advancement in the fight against IUU fishing. Furthermore, the training emphasised the critical nature of international cooperation and collective action, laying a solid foundation for future collaborative efforts aimed at sustainable fisheries management and the conservation of marine ecosystems worldwide.

By Casandra Tania and Ni Luh Putu Yulia Dewi