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Human dimensions of the blue horizon: behavioural insights for compliance and deterrence

OPL team members involved

Claire Collins


Oceanswell, NOVA University and Ashoka University


India, Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean region


2021 - 2025

Project description

Illegal fishing threatens fish populations and marine habitats, affecting the livelihoods and food security of coastal communities worldwide. It also undermines conservation and management in protected areas across the Indian Ocean, where abundant fish populations attract Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activity. To manage this, it is key to understand the social context of non-compliance. Yet, we rarely use insights on social aspects of IUU to inform and test approaches in policy and management, especially in the case of large-scale Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

This project works to understand human behaviour, drivers and deterrence in relation to IUU within the Indian Ocean region, as well as facilitating coordination among key stakeholders. Implemented in collaboration with Oceanswell (Sri Lanka), ZSL (UK), Ashoka University (India) and NOVA University (Portugal), this project will work with Sri Lankan and Indian students to create data that is useful for national policy and management in both countries. By doing so, it will provide critical insights into how to enhance the robustness of MPA management decisions, particularly when illegal behaviour is involved, by fulfilling the following objectives;


  1. Assess key challenges and opportunities for addressing IUU fishing in large MPAs with a focus on fisher behavioural insights and barriers to the uptake of technological, management and policy options amongst fisheries officers.

  2. Characterize social motivators for non-compliance amongst fishing communities in India and Sri Lanka, focusing on links between targeting sharks and perception of risk with likelihood of non-compliance.

  3. Identify a set of strategies and management measures to deter, combat and eliminate IUU in large MPAs, drawing specific management and policy recommendations for improving fisher compliance and deterrence in the region.

A multi-disciplinary approach will be used, incorporating social science tools, such as surveys, which will be designed to be participatory and inclusive. Data collection will occur across varied settings, ranging from fisher communities to high-level workshops organised with policy-makers and scientists. This will help to generate science that represents a broad range of stakeholder opinions and is useful across different levels of policy management. 


Shark fins harvested at a market in Sri Lanka.

Image courtesy of Claire Collins. 

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