Civil Conflict and World Fisheries, 1952-2004
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 countries from 1952 to 2004 demonstrates a strong, statistically robust and negative relationship between civil conflict and fisheries, with civil wars (1000+ battle 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 Niño, 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.
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