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Fishing in Troubled Waters: Fisheries Conflicts Impacts on Human Security and Social-Ecological Wellbeing


While the climate-conflict nexus is widely recognized, considerable uncertainty remains about the ways resource scarcity, environmental degradation, and weakened livelihoods affect the social fabrics of fisheries and undermine human security for fish-dependent communities. As more fishing pressure and more fishers leads to decreases in catch per unit of effort, violent conflicts and social injustices in marine and freshwater environments become a growing security concern. Fisheries conflicts are especially prevalent in the tropical majority countries with weak institutions and many small-scale fisheries. This research seeks to better understand the drivers of fisheries conflicts and the complexities of feedback loops while also revealing acute challenges to human security in small-scale fisheries. This study is an effort to support stronger measures that protect both people and the natural environment. The investigation employs two qualitative research methodologies: First, an exploratory review of fisheries conflicts through case studies contributed by members of the Fisheries  Conflicts Research Consortium, and second, two community-based participatory researches (CBPR) approaches — community mapping exercises in Peru and Photovoice workshop in Kenya — engaging local fishermen to share their actual experiences related to fisheries conflicts. Analysis from the case studies shows weak governance as the main driver of fisheries-related disputes, followed by increased fishing pressure and foreign fishing. In the CBPR studies, participants in Peru described lack of law enforcement, corruption, and piracy as a major contributor to fisheries conflicts whereas participants in Kenya identified economic insecurity as the main threat to their social-ecological wellbeing, followed by environmental insecurity, which fueled conflicts. The research further supports Secure Fisheries and FCRC members to better inform fisheries conflict mitigation strategies, raises awareness about social-ecological contexts around seafood consumption, and builds local capacity in fisheries to act as potential catalysts for positive change.

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