Stäbler, Moritz, Letschert, Jonas, Fujitani, Marie and Partelow, Stefan ORCID: (2022) Fish grabbing: Weak governance and productive waters are targets for distant water fishing. PLOS ONE, 17 (12). e0278481. DOI

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Distant water fishing occurs worldwide as foreign fleets fish in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of other states. We test the hypothesis that host state governance performance is an explanatory factor in observed distant water fishing effort using Global Fishing Watch’s fishing effort data obtained from vessels’ automatic identification system (AIS). We examine the explanatory power of the World Governance Indicators (WGI), Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, and biophysical fisheries productivity indicators (temperature, oxygen, salinity, nutrients, and primary productivity) on fishing effort from foreign fleets across the four most common gear types (fixed gear, longliners, trawlers, and tuna purse seiners). Our models include both host EEZ fishery productivity indicators and governance indicators with R2 values of 0.97 for longlining, 0.95 trawling, 0.95 for fixed gear and 0.82 for tuna purse seiners. Although a lack of good governance may enable illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has enabled the legal establishment of foreign fishing contracts. However, it is unlikely that fishing contracts are decoupled from economic and political negotiations on other issues. We argue that it is worthwhile to consider the term “fish grabbing”, meaning wealthier and politically more powerful states consciously seek to profit from fishing in the waters of often weaker states through developing legal fishing contracts.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: PA1
Research affiliation: Integrated Modelling > Resource Management
Social Sciences > Deliberation, Valuation and Sustainability
Social Sciences > Institutional and Behavioural Economics
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: Yes
DOI etc.:
ISSN: 1932-6203
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2022 10:10
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2022 10:10

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