Press Release

Report Reveals Impact of Massive Fishing Fleets

in Program


November 4, 2019

Contact: Caiti Goodman

[email protected]



Report Reveals Impact of Massive Fishing Fleets

Five countries responsible for 90 percent of Distant Water Fishing (DWF)

Recommendations would increase transparency and accountability


A new report sheds light on the impact that large fishing fleets, operating illegally in waters far from their home country, are having on the economy and ecology of numerous countries and ecosystems. Shining a Light: The Need for Transparency across Distant Water Fishing identifies the top Distant Water Fishing (DWF) fleets in the world, shows where they operate, their connection to illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and other linked tenuous activity such as corruption.

The report demonstrates that the current distant water fishing industry is unsustainable and makes concrete recommendations for increasing transparency and accountability to safeguard global fisheries for future generations and cut down on illicit activities.

Read the full report:

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Five countries make up 90% of the word’s distant water fishing: China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Spain. China and Taiwan alone account for 60% of distant water fishing activity.
  • Distant water fleets target high value fish in locations where governance and enforcement capacity is low, and where distant water fleet states can ensure access to other countries fisheries through quid pro quo agreements.
  • Chinese fleets are less likely to transship their catch at sea when compared to other distant water fleets, choosing instead to utilize ports and expand their global reach.
  • Building local capacity and transparency are important tools for preventing exploitation and corruption.
  • Without a significant increase in fisheries management, enabled through transparency and law enforcement, fisheries will collapse – with devastating political and economic consequences for many coastal countries.

The report recommends a number of actions that the global fishing sector, distant water fishing states, and coastal nations can do to prevent these consequences:

  • Mandating use of vessel tracking technologies and other tools that increase countries’ ability to trace the fish from catch to market as a prerequisite for entering the global market.
  • Making distant water fishing access agreements and business information public so that government officials and companies can be held accountable for their policies.
  • Reinvesting revenues from access agreements into fisheries management and enforcement to improve capacity to combat IUU fishing in coastal states’ waters.  
  • Considering the size and magnitude of the Chinese fleet, China should elevate ocean management and IUU fishing to its Green Belt and Road Initiative.

The release of this report comes just days after the 6th annual Our Oceans Conference in Oslo, Norway, on Oct. 23-24 that brought leaders from governments, businesses, civil society, and research institutions, of which the Stimson Center was one, to find solutions to guard our ocean from climate threats, pollution, loss of biodiversity, and unsustainable use.

Report author and Director of the Stimson Center Environmental Security Program, Sally Yozell said, “Transparency throughout the seafood supply chain is badly needed to sustainably manage our oceans and ensure safe labor standards on fishing vessels. In today’s modern society full transparency should be a social license for any global fishing operation. We need it to safeguard the food, economic, and environmental security for coastal nations. Our report makes actionable recommendations to ensure that the international community, distant water fishing fleets, coastal nations, and the industry itself,  work together to protect our oceans and global fisheries for future generations.”

U.S. Navy Admiral Michelle Howard (Ret.), and speaker at the DWF Launch event said, “Maritime Security is a team sport. Governments must collaborate internally across agencies and externally with other nations to regulate their seas.  The functions and skills that ensure Nations waters are safe from threats that come from the seas, are the same functions and skills that ensure the nation’s resources are under the government’s control. Navies and Coastguards training, exercising, and operating together build stronger ties, increase skills and improve maritime security that benefits all.”

The Stimson Center’s Environmental Security program explores the array of environmental threats, both human and natural, that have the potential to undermine national, regional, or global security.

The Stimson Center is a nonpartisan policy research center working to protect people, preserve the planet, and promote security & prosperity. More at

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Contact Caitlin Goodman at [email protected] or 202-478-3437.

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