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So what’s involved in day’s work for a Citizen Inspector?

This overview outlines the various tasks you can expect when you are trained up as a Citizen Inspector and join one of our investigations. Generally speaking the days are long, you will be working in a culture that you might not be accustom to and investigations take a long time to produce solid evidence. There is no overnight success and it is the combination of thorough inspections, intelligence analysis and follow up visits that make the difference.

Working as a Citizen Inspector is no easy task but gives you the opportunity to directly assist The Black Fish in exposing illegal fishing practices in a meaningful and concrete way.


Birds often die on the indiscriminate longlines, such as this unfortunate albatross

Good preparation is half the work. During your training great attention will be given to how you should prepare for the work. Typically Citizen Inspectors join for ten days, as part of investigations that run for 3 weeks to 3 months. All inspectors are required to cover their own travel costs to and from the location of the investigation, though all take place within Europe.

An additional personal fee (roughly 350 euro) is required and will cover part of the accommodation and food costs. The Black Fish subsidizes your involvement by covering any additional costs. Being prepared is about ensuring you can cover these costs, that you have passed your exams after the necessary CI training and have done your research on the country you are posted to. Accommodation, travel and food during the investigation period are arranged by The Black Fish.

Port inspections

Birds often die on the indiscriminate longlines, such as this unfortunate albatross

The main activity that Citizen Inspectors are tasked with are port inspections. Such visits allow us to gather information on what types of fishing are prominent in specific areas, what species of fish are targeted and whether or not any notable bycatch or illegal activities can be observed.

A lot of our success in documenting wrongdoing depends on us ‘having a presence’. The more Citizen Inspectors we can train up and have present in Europe’s fishing ports, the more we can document and potentially expose. Port inspections can take place during the day or at night and tend to be carried out by 2-4 people.

Mesh measuring

Birds often die on the indiscriminate longlines, such as this unfortunate albatross

Measuring the mesh sizes of nets (the size of a net’s opening) in fishing ports is an important way to establish what species may be targeted, as well as to ensure that regulations are followed. Fishing rules often specify what mesh sizes are allowed in different fisheries, hence measuring helps to document to what extend regulations are adhered to.

Market research

A lot can be learned from visiting fish markets in the towns and cities where illegal fishing is expected to take place. Most markets open at night, when fresh fish is landed and trading starts. In some cases the type of fishing gear can be determined from markings left on the fish but generally market inspections allow us to determine which traders sell which fish and if any are endangered or illegal.

Coastal patrols

Birds often die on the indiscriminate longlines, such as this unfortunate albatross

From time to time, dependent on available funding, The Black Fish will operate coastal patrols. Making use of a variety of available vessels, such patrols are operated by Citizen Inspectors with the relevant maritime experience and qualifications. As smaller vessels are more readily available, coastal patrols will typically operate 1-5 miles out from shore, unless The Black Fish has access to a larger seaworthy vessel.

UAV deployment

Birds often die on the indiscriminate longlines, such as this unfortunate albatross

Since 2013 The Black Fish has made use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to document fishing activity off-shore. Through a partnership with the organisation ShadowView, The Black Fish has been able to fly UAVs, also known as drones, to affect cost-effective monitoring of fishing activities. A small number of Citizen Inspectors will be trained as UAV pilots from late 2014. Interested? Watch the video.

Vehicle tracking

From evidence collected at fish markets, individual traders can sometimes be identified as being involved in suspected activity. Vehicle tracking is a way to follow vehicles from the end of the market day back to an address from which the trader might operate. Tracking the movements of such vehicles early in the morning, when it is collecting freshly caught fish from vessels, can help us trace which companies or vessel owners originally caught which fish that are displayed on the markets. Vehicle tracking is only carried out by experienced Citizen Inspectors with professional driving experience.

Birds often die on the indiscriminate longlines, such as this unfortunate albatross

Intelligence analysis

All the evidence collected by Citizen Inspectors needs to be stored, categorised and analysed in detail. The Black Fish is in the process of developing a new process for intelligence analysis and will be working with Citizen Inspectors on continual improvement of this aspect of the programme.


The Black Fish aims to use collected evidence to initiate prosecution in areas where corruption has thusfar obstructed effective enforcement of fishing regulations. Due to the unique and complex nature of the investigations and subsequent legal proceedings, prosecutions are expected to be launched no earlier than 2018.