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Fish fight: Ocean conflict at scale

07
Sep 2018

Posted By

ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies

A group of international researchers, led by scientists at Coral CoE, have issued advice that more research is urgently required to better understand the complex and dynamic nature of fishery conflict and determine their potential causes.

The team, led by cotutelle PhD student Jessica Spijkers from Coral CoE at James Cook University and Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University, has delivered key recommendations for future research.

“Conflict over marine fishery resources is a growing security concern,” said Ms. Spijkers.

“Conditions in the ocean are changing rapidly, instigating discernible shifts in fisheries stocks across the globe. Our understanding, and subsequent informed policy, needs to keep pace with these changes.”

Looking across the research landscape, the scientists were able to identify four major knowledge gaps around fisheries conflict studies.

“Fisheries conflict is not a new problem, but like so many other environmental concerns, its geographic scale and intensity are increasing. With fewer fish feeding more people, and climate change altering where fish stocks occur, we’ve gone from one-on-one international competition for fish to the world cup,” said co-author Professor Graeme Cumming of Coral CoE.

“Science-based solutions are required to promote sustainable and cooperative use of fisheries resources.”

The authors identify a strong need for a more precise understanding of conflict intensity (e.g. low conflict vs. violent conflict), and propose a scale for categorizing conflict intensity based on observed behaviours and actions. For example, an intensity of “1,” is typified by verbal expressions displaying “discord or hostility” such as threatening sanctions or civilian protests. An intensity of “5,” is defined by military acts causing death, such as an attack of foreign vessels, with resulting deaths.

Further recommendations for researchers include: developing a more detailed, complexity-focused understanding of how conflicts emerge and escalate; pooling existing research and conflict data to better understand relationships, patterns and trends, towards the development of predictive fisheries conflict modelling; and taking a more systematic view of fisheries conflict that considers interactions between the climate system, natural resources, human security and societal stability.

“These recommendations provide an essential road map for future research and policymaking,” said Associate Professor Tiffany Morrison of Coral CoE.

“For example, understanding the mechanisms and drivers of fisheries conflict can enable nations and regions to better predict and cope with these sorts of resource disputes.”

The authors of the paper, in addition to Spijkers, Cumming and Morrison, are: Robert Blasiak and Henrik Österblom of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and The University of Tokyo; Matthew Osborne of Stockholm Environment Institute; and James Watson, now at Oregon State University.

The paper, “Marine fisheries and future ocean conflict,” is published in the journal Fish and Fisheries.

CITATION: Jessica Spijkers,  Tiffany H Morrison,  Robert Blasiak,  Graeme S Cumming,  Matthew Osborne, James Watson,  Henrik Österblom. Marine fisheries and future ocean conflict. Fish and Fisheries 2018; 1-9. DOI: 10.1111/faf.12291

Science-based solutions are required to promote sustainable and cooperative use of fisheries resources. Credit: Pixabay, https://pixabay.com CC0
Science-based solutions are required to promote sustainable and cooperative use of fisheries resources. Credit: Pixabay, https://pixabay.com CC0

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ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au