Nereus program manager/research associate Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor (UBC) and U. Rashid Sumaila (UBC) recently co-authored a new paper in the journal Marine Policy, “Busting myths that hinder an agreement to end harmful fisheries subsidies”. In it, the authors focus on and dispel 5 pervasive myths involving fisheries capacity-enhancing subsidies that stimulate overcapacity and overfishing. Bringing attention to these myths is intended to facilitate discussions and negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is committed to achieving a multilateral and binding agreement to eliminate fisheries subsidies by December 2019. Reaching this agreement would the first global achievement of a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 14.6).

5 Myths busted:

  1. Capacity-enhancing subsidies are needed to compete with large fishing nations: The top 5 subsidizing maritime countries spend ~ $19.3 billion/year to their fisheries, 4x greater than that budgeted by all lower income nations combined.
  2. Capacity-enhancing subsidies are important for alleviating poverty: These subsidies deplete fish stocks, removing the resource coastal communities depend on. Fuel subsidies (most common type) are highly inefficient (10-cent income increase for fishers for every $1 fuel subsidy spent). Also, 84% of subsidies go to industrialized fleets instead of artisanal fishers.
  3. Assessing if overfishing is occurring should not be a condition for providing subsidies because there is limited capacity to manage or monitor stocks: If there’s a lack of management and monitoring capacity, any capacity-enhancing subsidies will adversely impact fisheries and the environment. Also, there are many resources available to assess the general state of stocks (e.g.,,,
  4. Overfishing only affects national interests, so an international agreement is unnecessary: New transboundary fish stocks are expected to increase in 35% of nations by 2100, due to climate change and shifting distributions. In order to curb the potential for political or violent conflict (530 international fisheries ones since 1974) between neighbors, every country needs to get involved.
  5. A strong agreement is undesirable because subsidies may be needed for potential future expansions or fisheries development: It’s highly unlikely there are a significant number of unexploited stocks left in the world, with 33% official declared as such, 60% maximally exploited and 7% in development. The fishing sector should invest in any new potentially profitable stocks, and monitoring institutions should provide oversight.

You can access the original paper here.

The above description is drawn entirely from the reference below:

Cisneros-Montemayor, A.M. & Sumaila U.R. (2019). Busting myths that hinder an agreement to end harmful fisheries subsidies. Marine Policy, 109: 103699. link

Related Works