Fisheries Subsidies

UR Sumaila
(Full download available here.)




The Sea Around Us and the Fisheries Economics Research Unit ( of the University of British Columbia currently identify 153 geo-political entities (countries or ‘sub-country’ spatial entities, or ‘administrative entities’ in Sea Around Us parlance) that provide subsidies to the marine capture fishing sector. A list of these entities can be found in Khan et al. (2006) and Sumaila et al. (2008), but will expand as part of the ongoing subsidies database building and refinement efforts.

Data are collected regarding government financial support for the years 1989 to present. Sources of data include government statistical publications, international organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), articles published in academic journals, internet resources, and media items. The full list of data sources is currently available in Khan et al. (2006) and Sumaila et al. (2008, 2010, 2013).

Collected data are organized into thirteen subsidy categories (Table 1). Based on the available information, each data point for a given year, country, and subsidy type is classified as Type I, II, or III. Type I data are encountered when specific information is available regarding the subsidy and its magnitude. This information is divided across the program’s explicit duration or an assumed length of 5 years and converted to USD. Type II data occur when information regarding the existence of a subsidy is available, but its magnitude is not available. Where there is no information indicating that a country provides a given category of subsidy it is classified as Type III data and entered as zero subsidies.

Data presented on the Sea Around Us website currently represent year 2003 and 2009 subsidies.

Table 1:  Subsidy categories as defined and used by the Sea Around Us and the Fisheries Economics Research Unit.
Category Description
Beneficial (Good)
A1 Fisheries management & services
A2 Research & development
Harmful (Bad)
B1 Boat construction & modernization
B2 Development projects & support
B3 Port construction & renovation
B4 Marketing & storage support
B5 Tax exemption
B6 Foreign access agreements
B7 Fuel
Ambiguous (Ugly)
C1 Fisher assistance programs
C2 Vessel buyback
C3 Rural development programs
Marine Protected Areasa
a  Data concerning Marine Protected Areas (MPA) were from Cullis-Suzuki and Pauly (2008).


Non-Fuel Subsidies

A simple method is used to estimate values for Type II data:

Equation 1 (1)

for countries i = [1,n], subsidy categories j = [A1, A2, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6, C1, C2, C3], and years t = [1989, present).

The factor β is calculated as:

Equation 2 (2)

where n is the number of countries/political entities; and LV is the Landed Value of marine captures fisheries as calculates by Sumaila et al. (2007), i.e., the product of catch tonnage multiplied by the relevant ex-vessel price.

Fuel Subsidies

Fuel subsidies are estimated as for non-fuel subsidies. However, instead of estimating average total subsidy, we compute the average subsidy per liter of fuel and multiply this by fuel usage data presented in Sumaila et al. (2008) to arrive at total fuel subsidy for each of the over 140 spatial entities.

Subsidies for Marine Protected Areas

Costs for Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are computed by Cullis-Suzuki and Pauly (2008). Here, MPA costs in excess of 15% of Landed Value are not considered as subsidies, since it is unlikely that anything above this amount creates value for fishers. Applying this assumption, subsidies for MPAs are included as calculated by Cullis-Suzuki and Pauly (2008) up to a maximum of 15% of Landed Value.


Subsidies are collected and estimated for the 153 geo-political entities (administrative entities); however, some of these countries are responsible for the administration of one or more dependent regions or overseas territories. Since we may be interested in subsidies provided by a given country to one of its dependencies, we estimate these dependencies’ subsidies using Landed Value to separate subsidy estimates among a country’s dependencies. This is done utilizing the assumption that a dependency will receive subsidies from its administrative parent that are proportional to its contribution to total Landed Value.

For example, where a geo-political entity (administrative country) consists of a major continental population and two overseas dependencies, the total subsidy is split among the parts using the expression:

Equation 3 (3)

where Subsidyi is estimated for the geo-political aggregate (administrative country) as described above. Where we have disaggregated an entity’s subsidy among its dependencies, the values will be reported as estimates (i.e., in parentheses) even for Type I data when values are known.


Cullis-Suzuki S and Pauly D (2008) Preliminary estimates of national and global costs of marine protected areas. pp. 85-90 In: Alder J and Pauly D (eds.). A comparative assessment of biodiversity, fisheries and aquaculture in 53 countries’ Exclusive Economic Zones. Fisheries Centre Research Reports 16(7), University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

Khan AS, Sumaila UR, Watson R, Munro G and Pauly D (2006) The nature and magnitude of global non-fuel fisheries subsidies. Pp. 5-37 In: Sumaila UR and Pauly D (eds.). Catching more bait: a bottom-up re-estimation of global fisheries subsidies. Fisheries Centre Research Reports 14(6), University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

Sumaila UR, Marsden D, Watson R and Pauly D (2007) Global ex-vessel fish price database: construction, spatial and temporal applications. Journal of Bioeconomics 9:39-51.

Sumaila UR, Teh L, Watson R, Tyedmers P and Pauly D (2008) Fuel prices, subsidies, overcapacity, and resource sustainability. ICES Journal of Marine Science 65:832-840.

Sumaila UR, Khan A, Dyck A, Watson R, Munro G, Tyedmers P and Pauly D (2010) A bottom up re-estimation of global fisheries subsidies. Journal of Bioeconomics 12:201–225.

Sumaila UR, Lam V, Le Manach F, Swartz W and Pauly D (2013) Global Fisheries Subsidies. European Parliament,