EU fishing companies reap profits in developing countries, while taxpayers foot the bill

Infographic from The Pew Charitable Trusts, who also funded the research.

Infographic from The Pew Charitable Trusts, who also funded the research.

The European Union (EU) covers 75% of the access fees that allow its vessels to fish in developing countries’ waters while the fishing companies pocket the profits, according to new research from the Sea Around Us Project.

In a study published today in the online journal PLOS ONE, the authors analyzed access agreements that allow EU-based fishing fleets to operate in Africa and the South Pacific. They found that EU governments pay 75% of the annual access fees while the fishing industry pays the remaining 25% — but that represents only about 2% of the revenue it generates from selling the catch.

“The EU’s fishing companies are benefitting from these agreements far more than the developing countries where they go to fish,” says Frédéric Le Manach, a PhD student at with the Sea Around Us Project and the study’s lead author.

You can find out more about the study here:
Press release from the University of British Columbia,
Journal article published in PLOS ONE.

Le Manach F, Chaboud C, Copeland D, Cury P, Gascuel D, Kleisner KM, Standing A, Sumaila UR, Zeller D and Pauly D (2013) European Union’s public fishing access agreements in developing countries. PLOS ONE.

Deep-Sea Fish in Deep Trouble

A team of scientists from around the world, including several members of the Sea Around Us Project, is recommending that most of the deep sea be closed to fishing. In an extensive review paper published in the journal Marine Policy, a team of ecologists, fisheries biologists, economists, and mathematicians make the case that high seas fisheries should be shut down.

Fish from the deep sea, like the Orange roughy shown here (photo credit: Claire Nouvian), make up less than 1% of seafood in the market. But fisheries, especially trawl fisheries, cause a lot of damage to the species themselves as well as the seafloor and animals that live on it, like deep-sea coral, the authors of the paper argue. In addition, high seas trawlers receive an estimated $162 million each year in government handouts, which amounts to 25% the value of the fleet’s catch, according to Rashid Sumaila, an author on the paper and a fisheries economist at UBC.

The study comes just before the United Nations deliberates on deep-sea fisheries on the high seas. In 2006, a proposed UN resolution to ban bottom trawling in the high seas failed due to opposition led by Iceland and Russia.

Read the full press release here, the full study here, and some media coverage in The Washington Post.

Reference: Elliott A. Norse, Sandra Brooke, William W.L. Cheung, Malcolm R. Clark, Ivar Ekeland, Rainer Froese, Kristina M. Gjerde, Richard L. Haedrich, Selina S. Heppell, Telmo Morato, Lance E. Morgan, Daniel Pauly, Rashid Sumaila, Reg Watson. Sustainability of deep-sea fisheries. Marine Policy, 2012; 36 (2): 307.

Sea Around Us Speaks at the United Nations

This week the Sea Around Us is present for the weeklong UN meeting to review high seas fisheries . Rashid Sumaila’s work is being used to frame fisheries because the $27 billion his team has estimated in yearly subsidies keep unprofitable boats afloat. Former Sea Around Us M.Sc. student Sarika Cullis-Suzuki also joins in the meeting to discuss her work on the effectiveness of RFMOs. As noted in the Pew press release, her study evaluated the 18 regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs), the intergovernmental bodies tasked with managing fishing on the high seas, and found they have failed to halt dramatic declines of fish stocks. The study by Cullis-Suzuki and Daniel Pauly, Failing the high seas: A global evaluation of regional fisheries management organizations, appeared in print this week at Marine Policy. Update May 28, 2010: Read coverage from Cullis-Suzuki’s presentation the UN meeting in The Guardian.

High Seas Fleet Kept Afloat with Subsidies

The Belise-registered deep sea trawler Chang Xing trawling in in High seas bottom trawlers catch some of the tastiest fish (think Orange roughy, rockfish, and Patagonian toothfish), which are also some of the most vulnerable and overfished species because they grow and mature so slowly. A new study shows that this type of overfishing continues because the  200-strong trawling fleet is kept afloat with government money.

Several members of the Sea Around Us Project led by fisheries economist Rashid Sumaila estimated bottom trawl fleets operating in the high seas, i.e., outside of the Exclusive Economic Zones of maritime countries, receive an estimated US$152 million per year in fisheries subsides, which is 25% of the total landed value of the fish. The profit achieved by this vessel group is normally not more than 10% of landed value, which means that without subsidies, the bulk of the world’s bottom trawl fleet operating in the high seas will be operating at a loss, and unable to fish, thereby reducing the current threat to deep-sea and high seas fish stocks. The study is titled Subsidies to high seas bottom trawl fleets and the sustainability of deep-sea demersal fish stocks and was published online this month in the journal Marine Policy.

Sumaila Asked to WTO and British House of Commons

SWITZERLAND WTO GENERAL COUNCILAt the end of October, the Sea Around Us Project’s economist and director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit Rashid Sumaila teamed up with Oceana spokesperson Ted Danson to meet with WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy to discuss the most recent estimates of global fisheries subsidies and the current state of WTO negotiations on this issue.  The Economist reported on the fisheries subsidies discussion, particularly fuel subsidies here.

Global fisheries subsidies are estimated to be $25-$30 billion a year and encourage overfishing as well as undermine free market philosophy.  The current Doha Round of the WTO is an apt forum for discussing and disciplining harmful subsidies, estimated at $16 billion per year.

From the WTO meetings in Geneva, Switzerland, Sumaila traveled to London to the British House of Commons for another meeting between legislators and scientists.  The Marine Advisory  Group of GLOBE International, a group that supports political leadership on issues of environmental sustainability, gathered to discuss overfishing.

Sumaila found the legislators involved, a multipartisan group primarily from the UK, to be enthusiastic, particularly the MP from the same region as author/journalist Charles Clover.  According to Sumaila, the legislators were very keen on receiving scientific information and data and urged the scientific advisors involved to share their findings candidly.

The Marine Advisory Group will continue to work with Globe International to produce a policy document, which should be completed early 2010, to be taken back to member countries, and presented at a number of UN meetings next year.

HoL GroupSumaila, far left, at a meeting of the Marine Advisory Group of GLOBE International in the UK House of Commons.