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North Sea fishery subsidies reduce fishermen’s profits

24 May 2011 Scottish Marine Institute

Researchers from the UK and Canada have discovered that massive EU fisheries subsidies cause North Sea fisheries to be less profitable by encouraging fishing to continue long after the fishery is profitable, so damaging fish stocks.

Pumping EU subsidies into North Sea fisheries damages fish stocks because subsidies encourage fishermen to carry on fishing long after the fishery is profitable, new research reveals.

Researchers from the UK and Canada have discovered that the 208 million Euros paid out by the EU in fisheries subsidies resulted in North Sea fisheries actually being less profitable by a massive 71 million Euros.

“Our findings show the negative impact that subsidies have on both the biomass of important fish species and the profit that can be made. We found that subsidising fisheries does not make good economic or ecological sense,” said Dr Sheila Heymans of the Scottish Marine Institute.

Heymans and colleagues estimated total subsidies paid to a range of North Sea fleets and then incorporated the data into an ecosystem model of the North Sea.

They looked at two scenarios: maximising economic return; and maximising ecological stability. Examining the influence of subsidies on fisheries’ profitability between 1991 and 2003 revealed that subsidies decrease the potential profit of the fisheries. The scientists then forecast the outcome of different effort levels in the various fisheries. 

They discovered that to maximise profitability an increase in effort was required in some fisheries currently operating in the North Sea (Nephrops trawlers, beam trawlers and pelagic fleets) – but this would be at the expense of demersal trawl fishermen (who target fish like cod and haddock). However, even a three-fold increase in effort in the most profitable fleet (the Nephrops, or langoustine fishery) gave only six years of profit after which (even with subsidisation) the fishery made a loss.

“The model results suggest that you can maximise economic return from the North Sea in the short-term by increasing effort in fisheries like Nephrops trawling. However our work clearly shows the North Sea ecosystem is intimately linked, with some fleets and species suffering at the expense of gains in others”, said Steve Mackinson from Cefas, a co-author on the report.

The study showed that removing subsidies decreased individual fisheries’ income but increased the overall profitability and total biomass of commercial fish. When the scientists ran the model to optimise for profit, the amount of cod, haddock, herring and plaice increased and when they optimised for ecological stability, cod, plaice and sole biomass increased.

“The model shows that seeking ecological stability for the North Sea increases biomass of commercial fish species, creating a more robust ecosystem that is better able to withstand environmental fluctuations such as those we may see with climate change,” said Rashid Sumaila from UBC Fisheries Centre.

http://www.sams.ac.uk/NorthSeasubsidies/

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