High seas fishing would go broke without 'massive' subsidies: study

accreditation

Tampa - Fishing on the high seas would be an unprofitable business, but for the billions of dollars in government subsidies that keep an often destructive industry afloat, international researchers said Wednesday.

The high seas refers to areas beyond nations' territorial waters, where species like tuna tend to be overfished and migratory sharks - 44% of which are considered threatened species - often get caught in nets and killed as bycatch.

New satellite technologies that track fishing vessels are helping paint a clearer picture of how much fishing is going on in these distant seas, comprising 64% of the ocean and fished by a small number of nations, said the report in the journal Science Advances.

Researchers calculated that during 2014, the most recent year with complete data, the total costs of fishing in the high seas were between $6.2bn and $8bn.

Then they substracted the value of the catch, estimated at 4.4 million metric tons with an aggregate revenue of $7.6bn.

This means that without subsidies, high seas would be $364m in the red, or in the black with profits up to $1.4bn, said the report.

"Governments subsidized high seas fishing with $4.2 billion in 2014, far exceeding the net economic benefit of fishing in the high seas," said the report.

"Governments are throwing massive amounts of taxpayer money into a destructive industry," said lead author Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence.

"Without subsidies and the forced labor some of them are known for, fishing would be unprofitable in over half of the high seas fishing grounds."

Five countries accounted for most of the global high-seas fishing revenue: China (21%), Taiwan (13%), Japan (11%), South Korea (11%), and Spain (8%).

The study used Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) and Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) to track 3 620 vessels in near-real time.

Researchers added global catch data from the University of British Columbia's Sea Around Us project to estimate fishing totals.

Other researchers came from the University of California, Santa Barbara; Global Fishing Watch; and the University of Western Australia.

Researchers called for substantial reforms to high seas fishing.

"In many parts of the high seas, subsidies are propping up fishing activity to levels far beyond what would otherwise be economically rational," said co-author Christopher Costello, professor of environmental and resource economics at UC Santa Barbara.

"This implies that through targeted subsidy reforms, we could save taxpayers money, rebuild fish stocks, and eventually lead to higher value, lower volume fisheries."

* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Rand - Dollar
14.55
+0.2%
Rand - Pound
20.05
+0.4%
Rand - Euro
16.92
+0.2%
Rand - Aus dollar
10.90
-0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.13
+0.2%
Gold
1,780.40
+0.6%
Silver
23.96
+1.3%
Palladium
2,079.57
-1.1%
Platinum
1,043.47
+0.1%
Brent Crude
85.08
+0.9%
Top 40
60,160
-0.4%
All Share
66,727
-0.4%
Resource 10
62,801
-1.2%
Industrial 25
85,132
+0.3%
Financial 15
14,131
-0.5%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Company Snapshot
Voting Booth
Facebook is facing a fresh crisis after a former employee turned whistle-blower leaked internal company research . Do you still use Facebook?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, the benefits outweigh the risk for me
23% - 152 votes
No, I have deleted it
47% - 318 votes
Yes, but I am considering deleting it
30% - 201 votes
Vote