Statement of Need
Regardless of region, nearshore marine ecosystems around the world are under impact from illegal fishing, marine smuggling, vessel groundings and oil spills, destructive fishing, coastal pollution and runoff, overfishing, illegal international trade and so on. Even where marine enforcement exists, few countries have well-trained field investigators or well-developed marine enforcement investigative programs to properly assess and handle criminal events. Such short term human impact events often overwhelm the capabilities of these agencies to maximize prosecution or litigation. This takes on even greater significance relative to rare and protected marine resources where joint-investigations relative to shared resource impacts and illegal trafficking in marine products may have broader importance at a regional or country level.
While legal systems and resource management strategies vary from country to country, successful investigation strategies related to nearshore environmental crime events are relatively limited. Recently, groups of recognized experts (The Coral Disease and Health Consortium’s Forensics Workshop Committee, the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) Committee on Coral Reef Enforcement and Natural Resource Investigation, INTERPOL Environmental Crime Working Group, the USFWS National Wildlife Forensics Laboratory) have all proposed initiating projects to create such standards. Both CRCSI and MCSI are such projects, both making use of both investigative and rapid ecological assessment techniques, marine evidence collection methods and handling, in-water enforcement techniques, and a focused emphasis on adapting standard terrestrial Chain-of-Custody techniques to the marine environment in ways that will enhance both resource protection and management capabilities. Examples of this approach are available from the successful 2006 pilot CRCSI workshop held in Cozumel and twenty-three previous funded CRCSI workshops held over the last decade in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Malaysia, Bali, Trinidad & Tobago, Belize, South Africa, Barbados, the Maldives, French Polynesia, Guam, Honduras, Thailand (Field Marine Enforcement Investigation), Guadeloupe (Field Contaminant Assays), Sea Turtle Field Forensics (Mexico, Colombia, Puerto Rico), Vessel Grounding Field Investigations (Florida), Aquatic Invasive Species (Jamaica) MPA Enforcement Field Investigations (Colombia, Mexico); and the three very successful INL-sponsored Marine CSI for Enforcement Officers trainings (Philippines) held in 2015 and 2016.