Using beneficial ownership information in fisheries governance


BO information can be used to further fisheries policies in a number of ways. Primarily, it can be used to help strengthen the governance of fisheries tenure. This can be done by ensuring fishing licences are awarded in line with tenure policies and helping to monitor and assess whether fisheries tenure policies are achieving their broader aims, including not just maximising economic benefit but also ensuring that benefits accrue to the country’s population and fisheries communities. Making the information widely available enables other parties to use the data to participate in and oversee the fisheries sector. BO data can also be used to tackle various fisheries and fisheries-related crimes, as well as to detect and investigate their proceeds. Finally, BOT can indirectly and systemically improve fisheries sector governance.

In order for governments to leverage ongoing BOT efforts, they should consider the conceptual difference between the beneficial ownership of corporate vehicles and the beneficial ownership of the assets a corporate vehicle may own. They should consider which relevant corporate vehicles are not yet covered by existing efforts and how to collect, structure, and make data available. Because fisheries sectors are highly transnational in nature and involve corporate vehicles and vessels from a range of different countries, standardisation of the implementation of BOT across different jurisdictions is key to enabling the sharing and interoperability of BO data. Jurisdictions with fisheries sectors, RFMOs, and multilateral organisations could advocate for and require minimum legal, policy, technical, and data standards. In addition to pushing for standardising BO implementation, RFMOs can also set minimum standards for complementary measures and good fisheries governance policies. They may also be suitable platforms for sharing domestic BO information between countries. Other international mechanisms, such as UNCAC, could be strengthened to raise BOT-specific requirements where the FATF is falling short in creating systems that work for policy areas beyond AML, including fisheries governance.

Even with BOT, significant challenges remain. Many fisheries-related crimes may not involve corporate vehicles or can only be tackled through effective monitoring. The high seas remain an infamously lawless and unregulated place. Many of the issues raised in this briefing may also be better addressed through changes in fisheries policy. Canada, for example, has dusted off a decades-old policy solution aimed at maximising employment and ensuring equitable access, which requires licence owners to be individual fishers, fish their licences, and be the main beneficiaries. [189]

Whilst BOT is not a silver bullet, knowing who owns and controls fishing rights, vessels, and other corporate vehicles involved in the sector at a domestic level is a prerequisite for effective fisheries governance and accountability in territorial waters and the areas covered by RFMOs. This can help ensure that fisheries benefit the intended parties; stocks are fished in a responsible way and at sustainable levels; fisheries-related crimes are tackled; and the marine environment is protected.


[189] Michael Gardner, Comparative analysis of commercial fisheries policies and regulations on Canada’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts (Halifax: DFO, Government of Canada, 2021),; Canada House of Commons, “Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans – Number 066”, 8.