The critical marine stocks that humans depend on for food could become even more endangered due to climate change, overexploitation, and poor enforcement of existing regulations, raising fears among some experts that fish and other forms of sea life are already becoming another source of geopolitical competition.
Examples abound. Only last month, a fleet of French fishing vessels chased five British boats from a scallop-rich area (CNN) off the coast of Normandy in an incident dubbed the ‘scallop wars’ by English-language news media. The problem? The French fishermen, whose fishing season starts in October, were furious their British counterparts, who are not limited by law, started trawling for mollusks a month earlier.
“We have quotas, we have hours and they have nothing, no quotas, seven days out of seven they fill their boats. They come, they dredge and they fill their vessel and they go home. They work a month earlier than us and they leave us the crumbs,” said French fisherman Anthony Quesnel.
Half a world away, fishing disputes in the South China Sea present a serious risk of devolving into more serious armed conflicts, according to Foreign Policy magazine.
While it’s unlikely nations would go to war over fish, some experts say these examples highlight the fierce competition countries are engaged in over access to shifting populations of fish and other forms of sea life that are under severe strain due to overexploitation, climate change, and an ever-growing human population.
“Marine species, not just scallops but a lot of the key species that we depend on, like cod, for instance, or sea bass, have been increasingly under strain due to climate change, warming seas, more acidic oceans. ,” Heather Alberro, an assistant lecturer at Nottingham Trent University in the UK and an expert on how humans are affecting the environment, told WikiTribune.
She added: “The scallop wars are just I think the beginning of things to come that are far worse”.
This story will look at why fish and other forms of marine life are crucial to our survival, and why some nations might be willing to fight over them. It will also examine how climate change and consumption both exacerbate this problem, and the solutions being pursued.
- Hard news intro — see story already subbed
- Why this matters
- Heather interview
- Jay Caputo piece