TNRC Fisheries Supply Chain Corruption

Image representing TNRC's four focus areas: wildlife, fisheries, forests, and finance

Targeting Natural Resource Corruption

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

© Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF

TNRC Guide: Identifying Corruption Risks along a Fishery Supply Chain

Designing and implementing conservation and natural resource management initiatives that integrate ways to address the drivers and facilitators of corruption typically start with an analysis of corruption risks. While there is no single answer to the question "what works?", experience shows that countering corruption requires interdependent approaches, and that a range of contextual factors will affect their feasibility. This “journey” outlines corruption risks along a fishery supply chain. The aim is to provide illustrative examples that can help practitioners to “connect the corruption dots” in their own contexts. (This general guide may not provide a comprehensive map of all opportunities for corruption along the many specific supply chains within the fisheries sector.)

For information on specific anti-corruption approaches and learning, visit the TNRC Knowledge Hub.

© PeopleImages / iStock

Flag of Convenience (FOC) vessel registration

! Corruption Risk Registering in a country with weak regulation and oversight to reduce possibilities to investigate corrupt actions

Access agreements

! Corruption Risk Non-transparent payments by governments or countries to fish in another country's waters and risk embezzlement of those funds

Obtaining a fishing license

! Corruption Risk False permits issued in return for bribes or other benefits

Vessel ownership

! Corruption Risk Lack of ownership transparency reduces ability to investigate corrupt actions and hold owners accountable

Hiring a captain and crew

! Corruption Risk Bribes to ignore improper work permits or other labor laws

! Corruption Risk Bribes to enable human traffickers to avoid inspections and accountability

© Scott Dickerson / WWF-US

Record catches

! Corruption Risk Bribery or other corrupt actions to avoid detection or penalties for exceeding quotas, discarding species that are not valuable, or hiding/transporting illegal fish with legal fish

Enforcement of management rules

! Corruption Risk Bribery to avoid inspections

! Corruption Risk Illegal payments made to influence the control of fisheries management compliance regulations (e.g. fishing quotas, licenses, or gear restrictions)

! Corruption Risk Bribes to patrols to not detain vessels operating illegally


! Corruption Risk Collusion or payments to avoid detection or penalties for transferring catches between vessels at sea or smuggling

© Kyle LaFerriere / WWF-US

Report and inspect catches

! Corruption Risk Bribery to avoid inspections or ignore exceeded quotas

! Corruption Risk Catch documentation of illegal catches in return for bribes

Port inspections

! Corruption Risk Bribery to avoid inspections

! Corruption Risk "Ports of Convenience" where catches can be landed with minimal or no inspection

© Jürgen Freund / WWF

Primary & secondary processing

! Corruption Risk Authorization/permits to process illegal marine products in return for bribes

Audits & inspections

! Corruption Risk Bribes or other corrupt actions to avoid detection or penalties for processing illegal fish with legal catches

© Francisco Blaha

Customs inspection

! Corruption Risk Bribery to avoid inspections, falsify documents (e.g. fraud or mislabeling of product, misinvoicing of price)

© Meridith Kohut / WWF-US


! Corruption Risk Bribes or other corrupt actions to avoid investigations or penalties for falsification of records such as misinvoicing, mislabeling of product

Other inspections (e.g. health and safety)

! Corruption Risk Bribery to avoid inspections

© Meridith Kohut / WWF-US

Local inspection

! Corruption Risk Bribery to avoid local market inspections or penalties or to avoid investigation of sources

© Nick Riley / WWF-Madagascar

Banks, Financial institutions and regulators

! Corruption Risk Bribery or collusion to facilitate laundering profits from illegal trade

Tax havens

! Corruption RiskIdentities intentionally hidden to make accountability for corrupt actions and other illegal activities harder to enforce

© Shutterstock / ArtisticPhoto / WWF

Governance of natural resources doesn’t just happen within specific supply chains and the institutions directly involved in them. Legislatures, courts, individual politicians, and officials in institutions across government all make decisions that help to prevent, detect and prosecute corruption related to natural resources. But governance processes and practices can also be part of the problem. Corruption outside of specific natural resource supply chains might include payments to policy makers for limiting environmental regulations, payoffs to political parties for infrastructure contracts that destroy habitat, or collusion between judges and prosecutors to protect politically-connected offenders. Some other risk areas are outlined below, and analysis of decisions affecting natural resources may reveal others.

Policy & Legislation

Electing government officials

! Corruption Risk Political contributions or other favors to gain access to natural resources or avoid scrutiny of activities

Writing laws

! Corruption Risk Unclear or complex laws create conditions for abuse of power and official discretion

! Corruption Risk Gaps in jurisdiction limit oversight and accountability

! Corruption Risk Payments from corporations or other special interests tilt laws in lawmakers' favor


! Corruption Risk Conflicts of interest lead to self-dealing or protecting friends and family at all stages of natural resource management

! Corruption Risk Poorly executed laws limit accountability for corrupt actions



! Corruption Risk Investigations prevented or impeded in exchange for bribes or other benefits

! Corruption Risk Tip-offs, release of suspects, loss or tampering with evidence in exchange for bribes or other benefits


! Corruption Risk Case delays in exchange for bribes or other benefits


! Corruption Risk Unclear sentencing guidelines enable lenient penalties in exchange for bribes or other beneifts

! Corruption Risk Judges acquit defendants or impose lower sentences in exchange for bribes or other benefits

! Corruption Risk Political interference in the release of convicted traffickers in return for benefits


! Corruption Risk Avoiding penalization in exchange for bribes or other benefits

The images used on this page are for illustration purposes only and do not imply the involvement of any depicted person or vessel in corruption or illegal activity.

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