The Last Fish Swimming

The Global Crime of Illegal Fishing

by Gohar A. Petrossian


The global scale of illegal fishing is estimated at about 11–26 million tons, or $10–23.5 billion, annually.

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Cover image for The Last Fish Swimming

May 2019


Pages 176
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Current Events and Issues/Environment

This book examines the global, local, and specific environmental factors that facilitate illegal fishing and proposes effective ways to reduce the opportunities and incentives that threaten the existence of the world's fish.

Humans are deeply dependent on fishing—globally, fish comprise 15 percent of the protein intake for approximately 3 billion people, and 8 percent of the global population depends on the fishing industry as their livelihood. The global fishing industry is plagued by illegal fishing, however, and many highly commercial species, such as cod, tuna, orange roughy, and swordfish, are extremely vulnerable.

Through criminological analysis, The Last Fish Swimming emphasizes the importance of looking at specific environmental factors that make illegal fishing possible. It examines such factors as proximity to known ports where illegally caught fish can be landed without inspection (i.e., ports of convenience), fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance efforts, formal surveillance, and resource attractiveness in 53 countries that altogether represent 96 percent of the world's fish catch. The book calls upon the global community to address the illegal depletion of the world's fish stock and other similar threats to the world's food supply and natural environment in order to ensure the sustainability of the planet's fish and continuation of the legal fishing industry for generations to come.


  • Provides a criminological analysis of illegal fishing through the application of two important environmental criminology perspectives (rational choice and situational crime prevention)
  • Highlights the countries most at risk, i.e. hot spots of illegal fishing, and the ports most frequently used to land illegally caught fish
  • Discusses environmental factors that increase or reduce the risk of illegal fishing
  • Includes summary tables on the most vulnerable species and on global, regional, and local factors contributing to illegal fishing
  • Provides a toolbox of empirically founded policy recommendations on how illegal fishing can be stopped
Author Info

Gohar A. Petrossian, PhD, is assistant professor of criminal justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She has published in top criminal justice, social science, and conservation journals including the British Journal of Criminology, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, Biological Conservation, Ocean & Coastal Management, and Oryx. Petrossian holds a doctorate in criminal justice from Rutgers University–Newark, School of Criminal Justice.



"Petrossian, a leading young conservation criminologist, has produced a well-documented book on illegal fishing including a brief historical background and overview on the extent of illegal fishing, chapters on relevant empirical research, and explanations for illegal fishing. She offers a fresh empirical assessment of these arguments and discussions of international laws and illegal fishing prevention policy. A 'must-read' work for understanding the relevance of criminology in the modern era of environmental destruction and conservation."—Michael J. Lynch, Professor, Department of Criminology, University of South Florida

"Illegal fishing threatens global food security, global ecosystems, and the health of the world's oceans, which are a key foundation of life on earth. Gohar Petrossian provides a timely, urgently-required, and comprehensive analysis of illegal fishing and ways to combat it, giving policymakers, NGOs, and responsible citizens of the world a most valuable menu of policies and choices to reduce the scourge. Despite the physical and technical challenges, Gohar shows that it is really a profound lack of political will that underpins illegal fishing and overfishing and gives us tools to overcome it."—Vanda Felbab-Brown, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution, and author of The Extinction Market: Wildlife Trafficking and How to Counter It

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