What is a fishing village without fish? What happens to an individual, their community, culture, health, local security, local economy, and natural environment? We investigate the social and ecological impacts of low fish availability on fish-dependent communities with a focus on capacity building, well-being, and conflict mitigation. Small-scale fisheries act as buffers against extreme poverty and vulnerability. Without fish, communities face consequences that undermine justice and environmental sustainability across an entire social-ecological system. 


As a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Explorer and member of Secure Fisheries' Fisheries Conflict Research Consortium, our research examines the complex interplay of food insecurities, cultural erosion, health inequalities, political marginalization, armed conflict, maritime crime, and civil unrest in fisheries.



Founder of the Center for Nonviolent Communication, Psychologist Dr. Marshall Rosenberg states that "Violence is the tragic expression of unmet needs". Short on cash and calories, marginalized groups of artisan fisherfolk and their families grow frustrated. The ocean’s collapse is already having a profound impact on the security landscape - and will only intensify in the coming years as communities struggle to meet their basic needs as resulting from competition over what appeared to be fixed natural resources. Our research seeks to determine indicators that can help to identify small-scale fisheries that are exposed to the intersections between three key components: frail institutions, pre-existing social instability, and cultural narratives as well as ocean degradation and climate change vulnerability.


On social-ecological benefits of healthy fisheries and what happens when they're gone.

 The ripple effect from those who experience first-hand: Vietnamese fishing families and fish-dependent communities share their own visual narratives along the East Sea.

We strive to apply these indicators and new metrics for assessing the risk of climate change-induced conflict in small-scale fisheries in designing avenues to engage local youth in resilience through nonviolent means.

We investigate on how climate change and marine degradation exacerbate the catalysts for social and ecological crisis that may lead to maritime insecurities and inter-communal conflicts in small-scale fishing villages. Subsequently, we are focusing on how alternative pathways through education can prevent youth from becoming radicalized out of desperation and instead, be part of the solution as positive change-makers.

Fishery scarcity - in concert with environmental stresses such as growing populations, pollution, extreme weather events, and coastal development - critically undermines human security and wellbeing in small-scale fisheries. As nearly 90 percent of global fish stocks are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted, fisheries conflicts over finite aquatic resources are an increasing global concern.



We rely on generous donations, crowdfunding campaigns, and small grants to facilitate our free workshops with our community partners and enable our research. If you're energized by our approach and mission, consider making a donation to Beyond the Surface International for a tax-deduction and empower us to reach more vulnerable fishing villages from coast to coast.



BTSI is a California-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit working in solidarity with small-scale fishing villages to build social-ecological resilience through surfing, storytelling, and mindfulness workshops.