The impact of subsidies

02 Jun 2011

A new study, The Impact of Subsidies on the Ecological Sustainability and Future Profits from North Sea Fisheries, has examined the impact of subsidies on the profitability and ecological stability of the North Sea fisheries over the past 20 years.

It shows the negative impact that subsidies can have on both the biomass of important fish species and the possible profit from fisheries. The study includes subsidies in an ecosystem model of the North Sea and examines the possible effects of eliminating fishery subsidies.

Hindcast analysis between 1991 and 2003 indicates that subsidies reduced the profitability of the fishery even though gross revenue might have been high for specific fisheries sectors.

Simulations seeking to maximise the total revenue between 2004 and 2010 suggest that this can be achieved by increasing the effort of Nephrops trawlers, beam trawlers, and the pelagic trawl-and-seine fleet, while reducing the effort of demersal trawlers. Simulations show that ecological stability can be realised by reducing the effort of the beam trawlers, Nephrops trawlers, pelagic- and demersal trawl-and-seine fleets. This analysis also shows that when subsidies are included, effort will always be higher for all fleets, because it effectively reduces the cost of fishing.

The study found that while removing subsidies might reduce the total catch and revenue, it increases the overall profitability of the fishery and the total biomass of commercially important species. For example, cod, haddock, herring and plaice biomass increased over the simulation when optimising for profit, and when optimising for ecological stability, the biomass for cod, plaice and sole also increased. When subsidies are eliminated, the study shows that rather than forcing those involved in the fishery into the red, fisheries become more profitable, despite a decrease in total revenue due to a loss of subsidies from the government.

Heymans JJ, Mackinson S, Sumaila UR, Dyck A, Little A (2011) The Impact of Subsidies on the Ecological Sustainability and Future Profits from North Sea Fisheries. PLoS ONE 6(5): e20239. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020239, http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0020239