Natural Security: Wargames Aid in Fighting Unregulated, Illegal Fishing

By CDR Benjamin Cipperly

Commander Benjamin Cipperley, U.S. Navy, is a Federal Executive Fellow at the Stimson Center. The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

Illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing presents economic and security challenges to all maritime nations. Bad actors, ranging from local artisanal fleets fishing without a license inside their countries exclusive economic zones, to foreign distant water fleets who can take advantage of a lack of governance and management in developing countries to fish at will or run drift nets for miles in international waters, strip mining the ocean and killing everything that is unfortunate enough to be caught in their wake, are driving an industry that is estimated to cost between $15.5 and $36.4 billion per year. IUU fishing destroys global fishing stocks, removes revenue from the legitimate economy, and threatens food security. Additionally, as the global population increases and demands for fish grow with it, IUU fishing is emerging as a national security threat.

As with other forms of high seas crime, such as narcotics smuggling and human trafficking, unpredictable human behavior makes detecting and catching nefarious actors a difficult proposition. Promises of high payoffs to fishermen from unregulated catches, partnered with the low probability of being caught due to the remote nature of territorial seas and limited capability of militaries and maritime law enforcement units to patrol the vast expanses under their control, contribute to the growth of IUU fishing.

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