Thursday, September 16, 2010

Are we subsidizing over-fishing?

According to this article from Reuters, yes.

Here's a link to a similar story from a couple of years ago.

Why do nations continue to subsidize fishing, when the evidence is overwhelmingly clear that such subsidies make the situation worse?

What are some examples of these subsidies?


We will not formally cover fisheries econ until later in the term, but one of the things we'll learn is that the best economic solution is also the solution that's best for the fish (i.e. truly sustainable use). We'll also learn that command-and-control (standards) simply will not get us there.


Filorux said...

I remember you saying in class that in some of these places, fishing is the job of last resort. In some of those places, the tourist industry i s the only real substitute. The last 10 years have seen two big shocks to worldwide tourism (Google tourism and financial crisis or 9/11), and so I can't help but think some of these places feel that subsidizing fishing is the answer to a declining demand for hotel rooms.

From the second article, it sounds like the subsidies reach way back into the chain of industries required to support a fishing fleet. If fleet sizes are too large, then in effect all the materials that go into building ships are subsidized, and all the efforts to secure those materials from the earth would be as well. The fuel subsidies don't just mean that gas is overused, but it is also over-pumped and over-refined.

As for a solution, I'm reminded of the Monty Python sketch, "How to rid the world of all known diseases."

Alan: "And this week on 'How to do it' we're going to show you how to... rid the world of all known diseases."

Filorux said...

Jackie: "Well, first of all become a doctor and discover a marvellous cure for something, and then, when the medical profession really starts to take notice of you, you can jolly well tell them what to do and make sure they get everything right so there'll never be any diseases ever again."

So basically the solution is remove the subsidies...easier said than done. These places need viable options for employment beyond the fishing industry. I'm no miracle worker, and so I can't say what those should be. But...

That doesn't mean that I won't try, however. Why not get into banking, Cayman style? Seriously though, how many "NIMBY" projects are there (not) in the US. There are things I want, just Not In My Back Yard. Why not become a host country for such things. Prisons are a good example - although I'm not sure if it is considered cruel and unusual punishment to be held thousands of miles from your home country. I figure that if we can get away with tent prisons in the Arizona desert we could get away with island paradise cabana prisons.

ern9932 said...

Many developing counties do not have many exports or ways to bring money into their country. But when a country is located in an area where there are fish to be caught, this is a great export for that country or just a way to stimulate their economy. So by the government subsidizing fishing possibly by reduced fuel costs or some other type of stimulus to the fisherman, this leads to a job opportunities and economic growth. And when one country in the Caribbean is sharing all the fish in the Caribbean with all the other counties, they are spreading the cost of overfishing with all the other countries, while they can gain all the benefits of maximizing the number of fish they catch. So with limited options for economic growth in many developing countries, any country that could profit from fishing will likely end up overfishing trying expand their economy.

Filorux said...

What do we think about this?

Ryan H

Anonymous said...

Could be a good alternative to overfishing even if it doesn't seem natural. But with so many people in the world to feed the ocean just cannot provide enough food. And we already doing similar things with other animals, giving hormones to chickens and cows to make them grow faster and bigger. So I think it is a good idea, as long as it is proven to be healthy and safe after all the studies are finished.

Ryan McKnight said...


Get politicians to recognize that there is a problem (show them that the economic and political benefits of eliminating the subsidies outweigh the costs). Like Filorux said, though, "easier said than done."

Perhaps pressure from NGOs (non-governmental organizations) such as Oceana can induce various governments to eliminate some of the subsidies that are currently underwriting international overfishing.

Loren Albertson said...

I agree with Filorux, subsidizing fisheries is just a way to boost the economy when tourism is down. I would recommend exploring another type of industry in these areas to supplement the economy, while giving the fisheries a break.

Tanya LaVallee said...

The question of why some nations are continuing to over subsidize fishing reminds me of the Tragedy of the Commons. It is in the best interest of those related with the profit to continue fishing and continue subsidizing it. Whether the motivation be to continue economic growth, provide a tourist location, or career possibility to locals.

kevin said...

It seems to me that Sumaila is right. Taxpayers are contributing to our (US) GDP not growing the 3.5-4% that it needs to in order to maintain healthy growth. 2010 only showed an increase of 2.3% in the US. One would think that 36 billion dollars more in annual economic gain would be incentive enough for policy makers to stop subsidizing fisheries. Reuters hit the nail on the head.

What if there were certain times of the year where someone maybe the gov't payed fisheries to not fish? Maybe a time when certain key species of fish were reproducing? Take a page out of John Keynes book, the gov't should spend at a deficit if there is lack of aggregate demand (coming from the people).