Evaluating Distant Water Fishing Fleets

A Taiwan-flagged tuna longline vessel based out of Palau coming to port to offload Photo by Eric Gilman/Marine Photobank

Oceans 5 is supporting the Washington, D.C. based think tank, the Stimson Center, to research and understand the geostrategic impacts and implications of distant water fishing (DWF) fleets across the globe. The project aims to identify and assess the impact of the top ten largest fleets by country, develop a deeper understanding of fleet operations, pinpoint geographical hot spots where DWF fleets are fishing, as well as uncover the strategic significance of DWF fleets for a host country’s food, economic and geopolitical security.  

Distant water fishing fleets have roamed the oceans for centuries—as far back as Norwegian fishermen plying the New England coast for cod. However, in recent years, globalization has enabled DWF fleets to become more efficient in their operations. With this increased capacity to capture more fish, DWF fleets take advantage of the lack of governance and enforcement of fisheries quotas, further exacerbating depleted fish stocks. Countries around the world are feeling the impact from these fleets, and many have reacted in forceful ways to deter their operations in territorial waters. DWF fleets and the reaction to them have become a source of geopolitical tension. This project seeks to understand multifaceted impact of DWF fleets on local populations, their role as a geopolitical tool for countries, and how they exacerbate tensions between states.

The Stimson Center’s Environmental Security program is uniquely poised to answer these questions, and will develop a publicly available, interactive online map of DWF fleets, as well as release a final report that analyzes their findings at the end of the grant period.