A new report from the Stimson Center, a global security think tank concludes that globally the fishing industry — particularly fishing vessels that ply waters far from their home (“the distant water fleet”) — is unsustainable and the only way to reign it in is through much greater transparency so that these vessels’ movements and catches can be more closely monitored by governments and NGOs.
- The largest distant water fleets (DWFs) — those from China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Spain, are able to operate for the most part in the shadows with “little to no insight into vessel ownership, the conditions aboard such ships, or access agreements” to fish in the waters of developing countries.
Why This Matters: According to the authors, the bottom line is that because distant water fleets have no effective global oversight, they are fishing unsustainably (and possibly even illegally) and that will lead to destabilizing food shortages in parts of the world that can least afford them, like East and West Africa and the Pacific. The secrecy surrounding these fleets leads to significant global security problems — lack of information about where these vessels operate, who owns them, the amount of fish that is caught, how fish is shipped and transshipped to market, the human labor practices onboard, and whether the payments to developing nations for access to fishing are fair and equitable. Until these distant water fishing vessels are fully tracked and monitored, our oceans and global security are at risk.