school of fish

Ocean & Fisheries

Countless communities around the world have long-standing cultural and societal ties to the ocean. In some places, this dependence is so strong that entire economies are built upon ocean-related industries, like seafood and tourism. While some great progress has been made to improve sustainability of ocean uses, overfishing and unsustainable development continue to threaten ocean habitats and biodiversity. Added stressors, like climate change and pollution, and new demands on ocean use, like ocean mining and renewable energy, can exacerbate these problems. To tackle these pressing issues, emLab’s Ocean & Fisheries program uses rigorous and innovative methods to enhance the ecological and economic performance of fisheries and other marine sectors. 

Key Themes

fish on coral reef

Spatial conservation strategies

Marine protected areas are conservation tools that, if designed and managed effectively, can preserve biodiversity, enhance food provision, mitigate climate change impacts, and improve resilience by addressing or mitigating current and future threats. We develop new conservation planning approaches and evaluate different spatial conservation strategies that explicitly consider, and often reconcile, seemingly conflicting objectives from diverse ocean users. 

Related Projects

global map of fishing activity

Satellite data for policy insights

New technologies allow us to capture and access high-resolution data better and faster than ever before. These revolutionary developments help illuminate real-time activity in the ocean, even in the most remote areas. We develop new governance, policy, and management interventions that are designed specifically to make use of these data, thus improving management, conservation, and livelihood outcomes around the world.

Related Projects

Chinese fishing boat

Reforming fisheries institutions

Unsustainable exploitation of common pool resources is largely a consequence of governance systems that reward over-extraction and undervalue conservation. Drawing on insights from economics, we develop and analyze market-based interventions to reverse these incentives to align conservation with economic prosperity.

Related Projects

fisher rowing boat in peru

Innovative ocean financing

Top-down management and philanthropy are often essential to bolster conservation efforts, but we believe that alternative conservation finance options, designed to work in low-governance and incomplete property rights settings, can accelerate long-term solutions. We design new financing options, and work with private sector partners to tailor existing tools, to provide a toolkit for innovative and effective ocean conservation finance. 

Related Projects

coastline with boats and umbrellas

Climate change and the blue economy

Climate change has already had a significant impact on ocean productivity, species’ distributions, and ocean chemistry. These and other climate change related impacts on ocean ecosystems are only expected to intensify. We develop and analyze management strategies that are adaptive to the effects of climate change and support resilient ecosystems and sustainable blue economies.

Related Projects

Satellites can reveal global extent of forced labor in the world's fishing fleet

Groundbreaking study sheds light on slavery at sea. Analysis reveals vessels known to have crew that are subject to forced labor behave in systematically different ways to the rest of the global fishing fleet. The discovery was used to build a model to identify and predict vessels at high risk of engaging in these abuses, and found that up to 26% of the 16,000 vessels analyzed were at high risk of using forced labor.

emLab Blog: Our 2 Cents

Related to

Ocean & Fisheries
Juan Mayorga
Ocean & Fisheries, People & Poverty
Gavin McDonald

In the News

Related to

Seven reasons to be optimistic about the world’s oceans

Eric Bender

Smithsonian Magazine

Researcher advances strategy to manage fisheries

Robert C. Jones Jr.

News at the U