Improving fisheries conservation by reducing forced labor

Award Period
Award Amount
Agency Name
Cantena Foundation
Award Number
Grant 2018-22
PI First Name
PI Last Name
Reniel Cabral
Darcy Bradley
Area/s of Research
Ecology and Evolution

Using GFW data and our forced labor risk tool, we will first conduct an analysis to determine how much fishing effort in the world’s oceans is attributed to forced labor across a range of global fisheries, as well as where this fishing effort is taking place. To do so we will map risk scores at the fishing flag and gear level to individual fisheries in emLab’s globally comprehensive fisheries status database (Costello et al. 2016). This database contains fisheries status information for over 4,500 fisheries that account for nearly 80% of global catch. This kind of analysis has never been undertaken by any group in the world, and will give us new and extremely valuable insights into the relationship between the health of a fishery and the amount of forced labor it uses. Next we will develop a model that leverages bioeconomic theory on traditional fisheries subsidies (currently being developed at emLab) to help us understand (a) how the use of forced labor lowers vessels’ operating costs and consequently drives overfishing, and (b) how a reduction in forced labor fishing effort could affect the fishery as a whole. Finally, we will use this model to determine the projected impact--in terms of conservation (fish in the water), food security (catch), and livelihoods (profit)--of reducing forced labor in our selected set of fisheries.

We anticipate engaging with a number of partners to inform this research and identify opportunities for using our outputs to improve existing policies or market interventions. We will also assess new opportunities for using big data and  new technologies to revolutionize the way forced labor and overfishing could be addressed outside of the constraints of the current policy and market landscape. Finally, we will explore how this research could inform efforts to detect and combat human rights and environmental crises found in other natural resource sectors, such as mining, agriculture, and aquaculture.