Policy ForumENVIRONMENTAL ECONOMICS

Subsidies, efficiency, and fairness in fisheries policy

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Science  05 Apr 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6435, pp. 34-35
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw4087

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Summary

In January 2019, World Trade Organization members began developing a plan to fulfill Sustainable Development Goal 14.6, which aims to reduce subsidies that make it cheaper to fish illegally or unsustainably. In the United States, combating illegal fishing is among the priority issues of the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus, and controlling overfishing is the central focus of federal fisheries management. Yet in late 2018, the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed a rule that takes policy in the opposite direction and expands commercial fisheries subsidies (1). This seemingly small rule change represents a major policy reversal, with potentially broad implications beyond the United States. This contradicts fisheries science and economics and ignores evidence that any fishing capacity increase would likely make its way into unregulated fisheries. Such a rule, although a final decision is still pending, would undercut economic and biological objectives in U.S. fisheries; would undermine global efforts to reduce illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; could increase impacts on habitat and nontargeted species (bycatch); and is unfair to taxpayers, other industries, and the next generation of fishers. After spending millions of dollars to get capacity out of fisheries, the government now proposes to spend millions more to inject capacity back in.

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