Azara Blog: Scientists watn fishing fleet subsidies to end

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Date published: 2007/02/19

The BBC says:

Fuel subsidies that allow fishing fleets to "plunder" the deep seas should be scrapped, claim a group of leading international scientists.

They said more than $150m (£80m) was paid to trawler fleets, promoting overfishing of unviable resources.

In particular danger were slow-growing deep-sea fish and coral species caught by bottom trawling, they argued.

2006 UN talks failed to implement a ban on the method, which uses heavy nets and crushing rollers on the sea floor.

"Eliminating global subsidies would render these fleets economically unviable and would relieve tremendous pressure on overfishing and vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems," said Dr Rashid Sumaila, of the University of British Columbia.

Eleven nations have bottom-trawling fleets, with Spain's being the biggest.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia estimate that without subsidies, these fleets would operate at a loss of $50m (£27m) annually.

Most of the subsidies were for fuel, the marine researchers said, which allows the trawlers to travel far out to sea and drag the heavy nets needed for bottom-trawling.

"There is surely a better way for governments to spend money than by paying subsidies to a fleet that burns 1.1 billion litres of fuel annually to maintain paltry catches of old-growth fish," said Dr Daniel Pauly, one of the researchers who has looked at the issue.

Japan, South Korea, Russia, Australia and France are amongst the other countries that subside their trawlers.

Sure, no industry should receive subsidies. Cut off all subsidies to fishing, agriculture, public transport, etc. Let everybody stand on their own two legs. What a great idea. Only it will never happen, because everybody always has their own pet reasons why such and such a subsidy should be given. And if some trawlers managed to make money even without these subsidies, would the scientists be happy for the damage to continue? No, of course not, so their argument is not only impractical, it is asking for someone to call their bluff. The real point is that these fishing fleets are causing direct damage to the ocean ecosystem which they are not paying for, and the fuel subsidies they are receiving are a but a fraction of this substantive damage.

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