Fighting against illegal fishing leads to armed conflict and deaths

Illegal fishing and overfishing are increasingly the cause of armed conflict in the world’s oceans, research shows. Both of these practices reduce an important but difficult to defend food source for billions of people around the world.

Jessica Spijkers researched the issue of fishing and fighting for Australia’s National Science Agency. She found that fishing disputes had increased internationally over the past 40 years and ended in 2016. She said the disputes often involved allegations of illegal fishing and overfishing. His review included arguments that sometimes came before fights.

The Associated Press also investigated the issue of fishing. He reviewed records and reports from independent conflict databases and governments, as well as news media. He found that over the past five years, government forces have attacked foreign fishing boats more than 360 times. the PA says such actions have sometimes resulted in deaths.

During the same period, another 850 foreign fishing boats were seized by authorities and systematically crushed, blown up or sunk.

The figures represent activity on six continents and such events are likely underreported. There is no single organization that documents all of the world’s violent conflicts over fishing rights.

Environmental and national security experts say countries that depend on fishing for both food and Trade, are likely to experience greater conflict in the years to come.

Industrial fishing has left many ocean areas destitute. As a result, fishing boats travel farther outside their country’s waters in search of fish. The search for new sources of fish comes as nations must feed growing populations and climate change further endangers ocean life.

Johan Bergenas is an ocean expert at the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, or WWF. He first warned of an increase in fishing disputes five years ago. He says the problem has gotten worse.

“We are now witnessing armed conflicts and tensions and strains because of fish stocks and competition in West Africa, the Western Indian Ocean, Latin America,” Bergenas said.

As a result, “there are going to be conflicts and weapons engagementon important fish stocks around the world, he said.

Arrested Indian fishermen line up while waiting for registration at a police station in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. Pakistan Maritime Safety Agency-MSA has arrested 43 Indian fishermen along with their eight boats for violating the boundary of Pakistani territorial waters while fishing, a police official said. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

Conflict in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, fishermen and their supporters protested against the use of Sri Lankan waters by foreign fishing companies. They blame Indian boats for entering Sri Lankan waters by the thousands, taking valuable seafood with them. Sri Lankan fishermen say they have lost business and some have lost their lives in disputes with the foreign fishermen.

The protesters demanded more action from the government. The Sri Lankan Navy has already taken action in the past. He destroyed equipment belonging to Indian fishermen. He chased away foreign ships. During a conflict, he allegedly fired weapons at foreign fishing boats.

Five Indian fishermen were reportedly killed last year in disputes with the navy. Sri Lankan officials deny killing or shooting crews and say they were not the attackers.

FILE - Boat parts fly through the air as foreign fishing boats are wrecked by the Indonesian Navy off Batam Island, Indonesia, Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. Authorities sank dozens of boats from caught fishing operating illegally in Indonesian waters.  (AP Photo/M. Urip, File)

FILE – Boat parts fly through the air as foreign fishing boats are wrecked by the Indonesian Navy off Batam Island, Indonesia, Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. Authorities sank dozens of boats from caught fishing operating illegally in Indonesian waters. (AP Photo/M. Urip, File)

Other Efforts

For many countries, violent conflict at sea is the last ditch effort to prevent foreign vessels from fishing illegally.

Countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia are trying to stop illegal fishing by flaunting their enforcement. They line the boats seized with explosives and set them on fire.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said authorities had sunk more than 370 foreign fishing boats in the past five years.

Indonesia, with more than 17,000 islands, is more maritime than terrestrial.

Andreas Aditya Salim is the co-founder of the Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative and a former member of the Ministry of Fisheries. He said watching his country destroy foreign fishing boats was “heroic”.

“It is important for my country. We have to defend it,” he said. The explosions send the message that “illegal fishing stops here”.

I am Gregory Stachel.

Helen Wieffering reported this story for The Associated Press. Gregory Stachel adapted it for our VOA Learning English readers and listeners.


words in this story

Trade not. activities related to the purchase and sale of goods and services

voltage – nm a state in which people, groups, or countries disagree and feel anger toward each other

stump – nm something that is very difficult to deal with and causes damage or trouble

commitment – nm a fight between military forces

incredible – adj. hard or impossible to believe

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