Shifting Baselines

Focusing on subsidies rather than consumers likely to be better for fish and for small-scale fishermen

A couple weeks ago, Daniel Pauly and I got the paper Funding Priorities: Big Barriers to Small-scale Fisheries published in the journal Conservation Biology. In our analysis, we try to demonstrate that conservationists attempts to encourage sustainable fisheries at the market level should place at least equal emphasis on eliminating harmful fisheries subsidies as on consumer-based approaches (e.g., wallet cards that advise on which fish to eat).

More emphasis on eliminating subsidies might also bring small-scale fisheries, arguably our best hope at sustainable fishing, to the market.

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Small-scale fisheries use much less fuel than industrial fisheries. They also discard fewer fish, convert almost none of their catch into fishmeal (to feed farmed fish, pigs, and chicken), and favor the use of labor over capital. Despite these more ‘sustainable’ traits, small-scale fisheries are disadvantaged by subsidies that go to industrial fishing fleets and keep big boats out on the water. This bias occurs because, as Daniel Pauly says, “small-scale fishers don’t golf.” So industrial fishers have access and power at the federal level (for which evidence can be seen in European fishers recent demands for further increases in fuel subsidies).

ScienceDaily and several other news sources covered our findings. And Mongabay.com just published an interview with me about this research and more. And, if you still haven’t gotten enough, watch this short YouTube clip with a couple more of my thoughts on the topic:

Comments

  1. #1 travc
    September 13, 2008

    Thanks, I did not know this info.

    My uni department hosted a speaker a couple of years ago talking about conservation and management programs. He was very good, encouraging us to get more involved in policy. One thing he said was very blunt and really struck me.

    Policy decisions and regulations are never ‘based on the science’. They are always political (special interest, ect). Our job as involved scientists is to try to shape the landscape such that the political and economic self-interests end up aligning with what is sensible from a scientific perspective.

  2. #2 Fassolt
    September 29, 2008

    See my comments to your posting on my blog fisheriessubsidies.blogspot.com

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