Preventing Future Fish Wars

February 1, 2023
12:00 PM

The Public Policy Center is proud to support this lecture hosted by the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council (ICFRC).

The nexus of oceans, geopolitical tension, conflict, crime, and societal instability is becoming increasingly important. World Wildlife Fund is entering this space of research and applied conservation because a robust ocean conservation agenda must include natural resource conflict resolution, peace building, and law enforcement capacity building. This talk will present the growing threat of conflict over fisheries, the consequences for geopolitical relationships between the world's major powers, the impacts on coastal fishing communities, and the potential solutions. Seemingly small incidents (such as a recent interaction between a Chinese squid fishing vessel and the U.S. Coast Guard off the coast of South America) can escalate unpredictably. As fish populations decline and move due to climate change, overfishing, and habitat destruction, competition and conflict over this critical blue food resource will grow. Additionally, the fisheries sector provides an attractive option for organized criminal activity at sea, including trafficking in humans, arms, drugs, and wildlife. Finally, as fish populations decline, communities are destabilized through lack of employment and food security. Fortunately, the world's policy makers and conservation groups are increasingly paying attention to this emerging threat, and there are hopeful solutions in the novel application of satellite technology, big data analysis, interagency and international cooperation, and capacity building.

Dr. Sarah Glaser leads the newly formed Oceans Futures team for which she is developing programming around ocean and climate security. The Oceans Futures technology platform will engage maritime stakeholders around the security implications of climate change for marine ecosystems. She is interested in exploring - and preventing - conflict between marine resource users where it will be most likely or most impactful. She has experience working with a wide range of stakeholders, including those in international militaries, foreign government ministries, academic institutions, and coastal fishing communities. Her geographic expertise is in coastal East Africa, the Horn of Africa, and the California Current.

Sarah joined WWF from One Earth Future, a peacebuilding foundation, where she directed the Secure Fisheries program. Secure Fisheries worked on fisheries conflict prevention in Somalia, and Sarah led their efforts at establishing conflict-sensitive fisheries co-management, collecting fisheries data, and quantifying IUU fishing in the Horn of Africa. Her favorite accomplishment was starting a university engagement project in Somalia that brought together students at four universities for online marine science courses and field-based fisheries data collection. Before working at OEF, she had academic appointments at the University of Denver, College of William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the University of Kansas, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She earned her PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography where she studied the food web ecology of North Pacific albacore, racking up hundreds of hours abroad commercial and recreational fishing vessels.

This event is free and open to the public; attendees are required to register beforehand.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Connie Sherman at