TNRC Blog | Lessons learned and quantified from the baseline of a fisheries anti-corruption project in Peru

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Targeting Natural Resource Corruption

Harnessing knowledge, generating evidence, and supporting innovative policy and practice for more effective anti-corruption programming

Lessons learned and quantified from the baseline of a fisheries anti-corruption project in Peru

Actionable, practical data about corruption and anti-corruption is still in short supply, and even more so for corruption’s impact on conservation. As part of their pilot activities for Targeting Natural Resource Corruption, WWF Peru documented experiences and motivations regarding corruption and other vulnerabilities of the stakeholders at one stage of a fishery value chain. This blog shares a selection of those results that may be broadly relevant and helpful for practitioners across sectors seeking to reduce the impact of corruption on conservation outcomes.

A hypothetical scenario: During the process of obtaining a departure permit for artisanal fishing vessels, irregularities and corrupt practices are permitted. These bad practices, and even crimes, are possibly motivated by fishers not being able or not wanting to go through the permit process, whether that’s due to lacking needed information, being an “informal” fisher, or engaging in illegal fishing practices. As a result, the legitimacy of official rules, management practices, and efforts to control illegal fishing are all severely undermined.

To establish an actual, non-hypothetical baseline of vulnerabilities and risks in the departure permit process for artisanal fishers in Peru, WWF Peru, with the support of the Targeting Natural Resource Corruption (TNRC) project, carried out an initial analysis. To complete this analysis, WWF Peru interviewed and/or surveyed more than 180 key actors in 2021 and 2022.

Key stakeholder interviews

Semi-structured interviews with 22 stakeholders, including fishers, fishing captains, and personnel of the government authority responsible for the departure certificate.

Survey

In-person, 24-question survey administered to 153 artisanal fishing vessel owners, captains, and deckhands.


The full results of that analysis have provided essential insights for various activities of WWF Peru, the WWF network, and other partners. Additionally, the analysis also offers insights that other practitioners may find useful in their work:

Examples of cases of corruption


The analysis identified four cases of presumptive corruption related to obtaining fishing departure permits.

  • “Processors” are unofficial intermediaries who sell a service of quickly completing official processes (like soliciting a departure permit). They may use bribes to achieve that speed, and they may also charge fishers without actually completing the official processes. In one case in 2012, the portal “Pesca Artesanal Noticias” reported that a processor had given falsified documents to more than 100 artisanal fishers. The processor had supposedly completed many departure document processes with the Port Authority.
  • OANNES Foro reported a similar case, also in 2012. The forum alleged a “close connection” between some individuals connected to one Port Authority and public officials in the regulatory agency. The former allegedly issued false documents, which the latter knowingly accepted.
  • In 2019, the “Agencia Peruana de Noticias Andina” reported on a Ministry of Production fish inspector who allegedly, in exchange for “gifts,” informed illegal fishers about inspection operations so they could avoid detection. The case also involved a lieutenant of the Navy; inspections at sea are the Navy’s remit, while inspections on land are the Ministry of Production’s.
  • Another case, documented in 2019 in the portal “Agencia Fiscal” of the National Prosecutor’s Office, identified irregularities in some processes related to fishing in the Maritime Authority. The National Prosecutor’s Office participated in an operation to detain two officials from the Authority under an order for preventive arrest. The investigation centered on inappropriate processing of fishing permits, and the alleged crime was accepting bribes.

Rationales for failure to complete the required official processes


Almost all interviewees and survey respondents admitted that, at least occasionally, they depart to fish without requesting a departure permit or after having their departure permit denied. The interviewees offered several reasons for not requesting the departure certificates (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Reasons fishers do not request departure permits


Personal experiences with “corruption”


More than 50% of the survey respondents reported having been asked for a bribe or something in exchange for obtaining a departure permit over the past year. Twelve of the 19 interviewed stakeholders reported being familiar with cases of corruption related to the departure permit process. However, some of the interviewees who said that they were not familiar with any cases of corruption were the same people who, in previous questions, had referred to “voluntary incentives.” The interpretation of this is that some of the respondents do not consider it “corruption” to give money or part of a catch “voluntarily” in order to avoid fines or speed up an official procedure.

One example is the process of “regularizing” a departure permit. If a fisher departs without a permit and is stopped by the authority, the regulation in place requires that fisher be sanctioned; the law does not allow for any other way to resolve the omission. However, officials have commonly allowed “regularization” of the situation through informal payments. 65% of interviewees reported having given a “gift” to an official to avoid a sanction, and 24% reported having resolved the issue by “justifying” why they lacked a departure permit.

Regarding legal mechanisms for reporting irregularities, 76% of survey respondents said they did not know any mechanism (a fact which justified the creation of the regulatory chatbot “Justina of the Sea” in another of WWF Peru’s pilot activities). Unsurprisingly, 92% of survey respondents had not reported any irregularities (despite high frequencies of irregularities occurring), but more concerningly, those that had made reports had not seen any effect, sanction, or change as a result of their complaints.

The impact of the solution


The case study of WWF Peru’s first pilot activity describes the process of developing and implementing the solution they created, TrazApp: a digital app that allows fishers to request departure certificates with their phones The case study concludes that the intervention is already having a positive impact. Some data from the baseline supports that assertion.

  • As potential improvements to the departure permit procedure, more than 40% of survey respondents wanted fewer requirements, almost 30% that the process be completely digital, and more than 10% that it take less time. TrazApp was designed with exactly those goals in mind.
  • Specifically asked about a cellular app to improve the process, 91% of survey respondents thought it would have a positive impact. Others, in addition, especially mentioned anti-corruption impacts, like avoiding bribes and “hindrances” and more easily entering information and corroborating it with officials.

These findings support the idea that technological solutions can help close gaps and mitigate corrupt practices. In that sense, TrazApp stands out as a potential anti-corruption solution. As well, the potential for scaling technological solutions like TrazApp to other procedures, steps in the value chain, and even other value chains besides fisheries further underscores such technology’s importance as part of a systemic focus on addressing corruption that undermines conservation objectives.

Building on the positive results of the first pilot, TNRC supported WWF Peru to expand TrazApp’s functionality and pursue even more transparency and efficiency improvements. This case study explores this second phase.

Image attribution: © naturepl.com / Jen Guyton / WWF; © Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF; © Georgina Goodwin / Shoot The Earth / WWF-UK; © Hkun Lat / WWF-Aus