Friday, May 25, 2018

Total capture

In 2011, MPI uncovered systematic and sustained fraud by multiple fishing companies, which undermined the entire Quota Management System. The fraud was a serious crime with a penalty of five years imprisonment, but MPI didn't prosecute. Why not? Because they didn't think it would result in behaviour change:

The fishing companies did not face any sanctions following the compliance audit.

"Prosecutions will have a short-term effect in terms of behavioural change," Orr said.

"We've modelled this in the past and, at best, it is three, four, maybe five years if you're lucky through prosecution action.

Can you imagine the police taking that approach to murderers, burglars, or drunk drivers? Laughable, isn't it. Why bother even having laws if they're not enforced?

There are two options here. One is that MPI is right, and the fishing industry suffers from such deep-seated criminality that the existing penalty structure fails to deter their crime. In which case the answer is stronger incentives to counter the obvious and direct financial incentives to commit such fraud. And there's an obvious one available: quota forfeiture - taking away their right to fish. Or seizing the vessels which commit fraud as instruments of crime. The latter is already available as a penalty; MPI just has to use it.

The second option is that MPI is totally captured by the industry it is supposed to be regulating, and refusing to prosecute because they're not really interested in doing their jobs. In which case we might as well sack the lot of them and get new people who are interested in doing the job, people who aren't institutionally corrupt.

Either way, if we are to maintain the integrity of our fisheries system, things need to change. I think the change needs to start with MPI, but there is clearly a deep-seated culture of criminality in the fishing companies. It needs to be stamped out.