Ocean Science Summary: Subsidizing Global Fisheries

Global fisheries receive billions of dollars in subsidies each year. Although some of this money, such as that to improve fisheries management, can promote sustainable fishing practices, other funding can lead to overfishing in the world's oceans. Capacity-enhancing subsidies, for example for fuel or boat construction, reduce costs for fishers, enabling them to increase their capacity and catch more fish. The unintended consequence of this kind of assistance is that encouraging fishers to bring in larger catches contributes to unsustainable fishing practices over the long-term.

Rashid Sumaila of the University of British Columbia and his co-authors improved upon previous estimates of global subsidies using updated data and methodology and calculated global amounts and types of fisheries subsidies for 2003. They found global subsidies totaled roughly $27 billion, 60 percent of which went toward unsustainable capacity-enhancing subsidies. Instead of continuing to invest billions of dollars into activities that aggravate overfishing, the authors suggest directing those funds toward fishery conservation and improved management. This Pew Ocean Science Series report is a summary of the scientists' findings.