Fisheries Conflict

Fisheries conflict ranges from disputes over fishing policies, to violence between fishers, to the infamous Cod Wars of the mid-1900s. At Secure Fisheries, we focus our research and efforts on understanding and mitigating the drivers and consequences of fisheries conflict related to violent armed conflict and organized political violence.

The relationship between fisheries and organized political violence is multidimensional. Good fish catch supports food and livelihood security, improving community resilience and reducing conflict. Poor fish catch increases instability and can push fishers into armed militias. As global fish stocks decline, fisheries conflict will increase.

In Somalia and Somaliland, fisheries conflict is related to illegal or unauthorized fishing by foreign vessels and to piracy. Foreign fleets target valuable tuna stocks, and Somali fishers report increasing difficulty in catching fish. Foreign vessels have also been accused of ramming Somali boats, destroying artisanal gear, and in extreme cases, murdering fishing crew. Secure Fisheries is working to reduce fisheries conflict in Somali waters by promoting collaborative governance over foreign vessel licensing, promoting sustainable development of the Somali fishing sector, and providing foundational research on coastal resource management.

In Lake Victoria, shrinking catch has led to violent conflict ranging from fisher-on-fisher attacks to organized attacks by the Ugandan military on fishers in both Uganda and Kenya. Conflict over use rights between wild fishers and cage fish farmers is nascent, for now, but a rapid increase in cage-based fish farming (aquaculture) means conflict will increase inevitably. Secure Fisheries is working to reduce conflict over fisheries in Lake Victoria through a four-year study of the impacts of cage aquaculture on wild fisheries and food and economic security in fishing communities.

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