Civil conflict and world fisheries, 1952–2004

Civil conflict and world fisheries,
Cullen S Hendrix
Department of Political Science, University of North Texas
Sarah M Glaser
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas
While the negative economic consequences of civil conflict are well known, does civil conflict have sector-specific
effects that threaten food and economic security? This article surveys the effects of civil conflict on reported marine
and inland fish catch, focusing on the effects of conflict through redeployment of labor, population displacement,
counter-insurgency strategy and tactics, and third-party encroachment into territorial waters. Analysis of 123 coun-
tries from 1952 to 2004 demonstrates a strong, statistically robust and negative relationship between civil conflict
and fisheries, with civil wars (1000þbattle deaths) depressing catch by over 16%relative to prewar levels. The
magnitude of this effect is large: the cumulative contraction in total fish catch associated with civil war onset is
roughly 13 times larger than the estimated effect of an extraordinarily strong El Nin
˜o, the ocean-atmosphere
phenomenon associated with global declines in fisheries. Robust evidence of a Phoenix effect is lacking:
post-conflict fisheries do not quickly bounce back to prewar catch levels due to more rapid growth. Analysis of
conflict episodes indicates that conflict intensity, measured by battle deaths, negatively affects fish catch, while
population displacement and conflict proximity to the coast do not. While these findings contribute to the growing
literature on the economic effects of civil conflict, they also are important for regional fisheries management
organizations, which must increasingly pay attention to sociopolitical factors that dramatically affect the utilization
of aquatic resources.
civil conflict, economic effects, fisheries, Phoenix effect
The negative economic effects of conflict have been well
documented, leading the World Bank to label it ‘devel-
opment in reverse’ (Collier et al., 2003). However, most
contributions to this literature focus on aggregate
measures of output. Might civil conflict have industry-
specific effects with more explicit implications for
livelihood and food security?
We view this question through the lens of fisheries.
The world’s fisheries are natural resources of significant
value, comprising more than 15%of annual per capita
protein intake for more than 2.9 billion people world-
wide (FAO, 2009: 60). Fisheries are the direct source
of income for 43.5 million people, over 90%of whom
live in developing countries (FAO, 2009: 23). Studies
of coastal economies in Africa and Asia indicate that
these employment estimates underreport, if anything,
the extent of reliance on fisheries for food and income
(see Be
´& Friend, 2009). Global fisheries are a key
component of food and income security in regions of the
world where civil conflict has been most prevalent during
the past half-century.
Corresponding author:
Journal of Peace Research
48(4) 481–495
ªThe Author(s) 2011
Reprints and permission:
DOI: 10.1177/0022343311399129
journal of

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