. Scientific Frontline: Researchers warn of future ‘fish wars’ as consequence of climate change

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Researchers warn of future ‘fish wars’ as consequence of climate change

Photo Credit: Sabrina Eickhoff

How climate change could give rise to “fish wars” between nations is the subject of a new research project awarded a £1.1m grant by the US Department of Defense.

The project, entitled “Future Fish Wars: Chasing Ocean Ecosystem Wealth”, is one of 11 to receive a total funding of $18m as part of the US Department of Defense's Minerva Research Initiative, which supports research in social and behavioral sciences on topics relevant to US national security.

The researchers aim to develop new economic theory and approaches to measure the economic value of fisheries in the context of climate change and growing geopolitical ocean conflict.

They say illegal fishing, contested claims to fishing rights and future conflicts are likely outcomes as fish swim for the poles as a result of climate change warming the oceans. 

Over three years, the research team will develop new economic theory for valuing multiple stocks of marine resources, which they will use alongside novel data on conflict and cooperative events to achieve a deeper understanding of future fisheries conflict.

Their research will focus on two potential outcomes from climate change that could drive future fisheries conflict.

One is for fish stocks to move from one location to another, changing nations’ access.

Another outcome is for the overall area where fish stocks exist to diminish, leading to more nations competing for the same stocks.

Dr Ethan Addicott from the University of Exeter Business School’s Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute (LEEP) is part of the research team led by Professor James Watson of Oregon State University and including Professors Steven Mana‘oakamai Johnson from Cornell University, Sarah Glaser of the World Wildlife Fund and Cullen Hendrix of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Dr Addicott said: “The depletion of the world’s resources is often highlighted as cause and consequence of the global climate emergency, but less attention is paid to the ways in which climate change will redistribute wealth, productivity, and capital.

“Capturing the impact of different resource users on the sustainability of natural assets as they traverse management boundaries can help design more holistic, global policies to promote a safe, healthy, and prosperous planet for generations to come.”

The 11 projects to receive funding were selected from around 130 applicants in six categories, and were evaluated for their potential to make foundational contributions to social science and their alignment with the US’s National Defense Strategy. 

“We live in a dynamic world, and many of the challenges we face are social or have social elements to them,” said Dr David Montgomery, director of social science in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. “Leveraging the strengths of the nation’s academic research institutions helps DoD define sources of present and future conflicts, with an eye toward better understanding the social and political trajectories of key regions of the world.”

Funding: US Department of Defense's Minerva Research Initiative

Published in journal: None

Source/CreditUniversity of Exeter | Russell Parton

Reference Number: ss060823_01

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