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Large-scale bottom trawler catch. (Photo: Greenpeace)

Fishing subsidies harm artisanal fishermen worldwide

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Wednesday, June 07, 2017, 02:20 (GMT + 9)

A team of researchers of the University of British Columbia determined that large-scale fisheries receive about four times more subsidies than their small-scale counterparts, with up to 60 per cent of those subsidies promoting overfishing.

These scientists point out that while small-scale fisheries employ over 22 million people globally and directly support food security, of the estimated global fisheries subsidies of USD 35 billion in 2009, only 16 per cent was allocated to the small-scale fishing sector.

“Small-scale fisheries provide food and jobs for millions of people worldwide, and therefore contribute to the wellbeing of many local, coastal communities,” said Rashid Sumaila, senior author and professor at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and director of the Fisheries Economic Research Unit.

According to the study, the largest such subsidy is fuel subsidies, 96 per cent of which are given to the large-scale fisheries through marine diesel subsidies.

Because of the high cost of purchasing and maintaining diesel motors, most small-scale fisheries vessels run on gasoline, which is not as heavily subsidised.

“These fuel subsidies promote fuel-inefficient technology and help large-scale fishers stay in business, even when operating costs exceed total revenue gained from fishing,” said Anna Schuhbauer, lead author and postdoctoral fellow in UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries’ Fisheries Economic Research Unit.

The scientists insist that subsidies for port development and boat construction, renewal and modernization also give the large-scale fisheries sector a huge advantage over their small-scale counterparts, who receive only a small percentage of those subsidies.

On the other hand, Sumaila warned that subsidies for foreign access agreements worsen the situation for many fisheries in developing countries and pointed to the European Commission Fisheries Fund assistance, which, he said, should not be used to cover the cost of fishing access agreements, but should focus on improving the host countries’ monitoring and enforcement capacities to foster sustainable fishing practices.

“Efforts should be made in both large-scale and small-scale fisheries to convert fishing capacity-stimulating (harmful) subsidies to beneficial ones, those that focus on sustainability and ecosystem restoration. Such action will benefit global fisheries in the long-run, making them more economically viable, and a beneficial way to spend taxpayer dollars,” said Sumaila.

The study findings will be presented at a side event at the United Nations’ Ocean Conference in New York on June 5-9.

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