A Chinese fisherman and his wife carry the day’s catch from a boat at a fishing port in Zhuhai in southern China’s Guangdong province. (Photo: AFP)
Call for cutting huge subsidies for unprofitable trawling fleets to curb overfishing
Monday, June 17, 2019, 17:20 (GMT + 9)
More than half of the global industry would be unprofitable without big infusions of government aid, according to a joint international study
Top fishing countries such as China should cut government subsidies for industrial fleets because the money is helping to keep many sinking and destructive high seas operations afloat, a global report has found.
Researchers from the National Geographic Society in Washington, the University of California, the University of British Columbia and the University of Western Australia found that as much as 54 per cent of the high seas fishing industry would be unprofitable at its existing scale without big government subsidies.
The research, published on Thursday in the journal Science Advances, found that the global cost of fishing in the high seas ranged between USD6.2 billion and USD8 billion in 2014. Financial results ranged from a loss of USD364 million to profit of USD1.4 billion in that year.
Photo: courtesy scmp.com
“I think the top fishing countries, including China, should cut the subsidies to their industrial fleets that support overfishing and destruction of the marine ecosystem, for example by deep bottom trawling,” said Enric Sala, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence who led a study behind the report.
Japan gave the biggest subsidies to its high sea fleets in 2014, accounting for 20 per cent of global subsidies followed by Spain on 14 per cent. China ranked third, with subsidies of USD418 million, or 10 per cent, earmarked mainly for diesel fuel for its “distant water fishing” fleets.
As fisheries off China’s coasts have declined over the years, Chinese fishermen have been encouraged to head out into the high seas or exclusive economic zones, 200 miles off the shores of coastal countries.
Years of unregulated trawling has damaged fish stocks. Photo: SCMP Pictures
China had caught a world-leading 1.52 million tonnes of seafood in the high seas, according to the report.
China’s most profitable high seas operations were in the Northwest Pacific, the report said.
Most of its other fisheries appeared to be loss-makers.
The most unprofitable Chinese fishing activity was bottom trawling in the Southwest Atlantic, which had an average net loss of USD98 million, even after subsidies were taken into account.
Photo: courtesy scmp.com
Chinese fishermen have been involved in clashes with fleets and coastguards of other countries while operating far afield. In March 2016, Argentina’s coastguard sank a Chinese trawler fishing within its territorial waters.
“Whether subsidies enable profitability or not, the magnitude of subsidies, and the fact that many of these subsidies lower the marginal cost of fishing, suggests that high seas fishing activity could be dramatically altered in their absence,” the study concluded.
But a professor from Guangdong Ocean University’s fisheries college who declined to be named said China was within its rights to use far ocean fishing to develop its marine economy and was not alone in subsidising its fleets.
Source: Zhuang Pinghui/scmp.com | Read full article here