Subsidies to High Seas Bottom Trawl Fleets

U. R. Sumaila, A. S. Khan, L. Teh, R. Watson, P. Tyedmers, D. Pauly, (2006). “Subsidies to High Seas Bottom Trawl Fleets,” Fisheries Centre Research Reports No. 14 (Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

The life spans of demersal species of fishes occurring in deep waters are much longer and their potential growth rates much lower than those of related shallow water species. As a result, deep-sea demersal fish species are more vulnerable to exploitation. This is because low growth rates relative to the available market discount rate for capital makes it desirable for fishing firms to mine, rather than sustainably exploit, these resources even in the absence of fisheries subsidies. However, it is common knowledge that governments around the world do provide subsidies to their fishing industries. The objective of this contribution is to estimate the global amount of subsidies paid to bottom trawl fleets operating in the high seas, i.e., outside of the Exclusive Economic Zones of maritime countries. Our study suggests that fisheries subsidies to these fleets stand at about US$152 million per year, which constitutes 15% of the total landed value of the fleet. Economic data for bottom trawlers suggest that the profit achieved by this vessel group is normally not more than 10% of landed value. The implication of this finding is 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.