tBrief #05 – Corruption in fisheries: Transparency to the rescue?

Corruption is a critical problem for many sectors. However, corruption in fisheries is given surprisingly limited attention in international debates on fisheries reforms.

Fisheries can be portrayed as a highly lucrative and competitive sector, that is increasingly regulated, relies on third-party agents, has complex global value chains that span multiple authorities, countries and legal jurisdictions, and often suffers from weak control structures. All these factors combined (so-called ‘red flags’) paint a convincing picture of a sector that is highly exposed to corruption.

Transparency is often seen as a prominent way of preventing and detecting corruption by shedding light on government activities, decisions and expenditures, and by increasing levels of accountability. 

Yet, those advocating transparency as a means to reduce corruption need to critically reflect on what transparency can realistically accomplish. Such a reflection is the core objective of this fifth edition of our tBrief series. 

It is suggested that while the detection effect of transparency should not be downplayed, there are limitations to what transparency can achieve if used solely to dig out incriminating evidence for an illegal act – the so-called ‘smoking gun’. Instead, there is a growing appreciation that the real power of transparency to fight corruption is indirect – by helping to shift political debates towards obtaining greater public sector accountability. 

Given that corruption is widely researched and highly complex, this tBrief does not aim to be exhaustive, but we hope it is stimulating. Please send us your feedback and ideas for future editions to info@fiti.global.

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This publication is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.