As China, Russia and the U.S. ramp up their naval deployments, thereâ€™s no shortage of conflicts waiting to happen in the worldâ€™s oceans. Yet the most immediate cause for concern is something more mundane than great-power rivalries. Pay closer attention to fish.
Seafood is the main source of protein for 3 billion people worldwide, and the industry employs more than 55 million workers. But with 90 percent of fish stocks now fully depleted or overfished and the worldâ€™s reefs dying, fleets are increasingly operating illegally in other countriesâ€™ exclusive waters and in areas of the high seas protected by international agreements. Experts believe at least 20 percent of the global harvest comes from this â€śillegal, unreported and unregulatedâ€ť fishing, which brings in an estimated $15.5 billion to $36 billion a year.
Failing fisheries will lead to shortages of food and large movements of population - fueling war, crime and terrorist recruiting. Unlawful fishing has increased tensions between nations from the South China Sea to the Bay of Bengal to the Patagonian coast and beyond. Many illegal fishing operations are run by criminal organizations that enslave their crews and use the ships for human trafficking; hostage-taking; piracy; and transporting drugs, weapons and so-called blood diamonds. Iranian fishing boats, for example, have been caught trying to smuggle arms to Houthi rebels in Yemen, and the Pakistani terrorists who carried out the bloody attack on Mumbai in 2008 entered India in a hijacked fishing boat.
In short, illegal fishing needs to be taken seriously as a global security threat.
Governments are doing too little to fight it - and some are actually encouraging it. The most notorious violator is China, the largest consumer and exporter of seafood. Beijing offers subsidies to deep-water operators, and its coast guard accompanies fleets when they violate neighborsâ€™ exclusive economic zones.
- The Washington Post