The high seas lie beyond national jurisdiction, and species there are caught by industrial fleets and destined mainly for high-end markets. Assessments of high seas fish populations, subject to piecemeal management, indicate that fishing has led to extraordinary declines in the abundance of many open ocean species. Fish catches are reported by states, but companies catch and profit from the fish in the global ocean. Seafood companies rarely disclose what or where they are fishing.

With the aim to provide a first overview of the fishing industry in the high seas, this study linked fishing activity in the high seas to vessel owners and corporate actors.

A total of 1,120 corporate actors were identified for 2,482 vessels and the authors found that the top 100 corporate actors account for 36% of all high seas fishing effort.

The authors highlight that, as attribution for anthropogenic activities expands beyond a national framework, this work demonstrates the feasibility of methods to identify the high seas fishing industry. It is concluded that these results provide a unique lens through which to view accountability for the use and protection of marine biodiversity and may encourage many UN member states to be more ambitious in protecting shared ocean biodiversity in international negotiations.

Carmine et al. (2021) Who is the high seas fishing industry? One Earth 3:730-738.