Resources & Climate

Distant Water Fishing Fleets and Hybrid Warfare

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This post is part of the Natural Security Forum blog, which provides quick analysis from the Natural Security Forum team and outside contributors. For more information, visit the Natural Security Forum’s micro-site at 

Guest written by Natural Security Forum team

In 1572, the British Empire under Queen Elizabeth I commissioned the pirate Sir Francis Drake as a privateer to wage war on King Phillip II of Spain, blurring the line between private and state actors. Today, some countries and their distant water fishing (DWF) fleets are similarly using the private sector to exercise power on the world’s oceans causing geostrategic instability.

DWF fleets often receive state subsidies or are otherwise supported by their state of origin. This makes incidents concerning DWF fleets potential flashpoints for armed conflict. For example, in October 2016, a Chinese fishing vessel caught illegally fishing in South Korean waters rammed and sank a South Korean coastguard speedboat, prompting the South Korean coastguard to later use machine guns against aggressive Chinese fishing vessels in South Korean waters.

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