Forecasting the Effects of Global Fisheries Subsidies Reform


SFG is building a state-of-the-art modeling framework to evaluate the way in which global fishing fleets, and therefore fish stocks, will respond to a variety of fishery subsidy reform policies currently being negotiated by the World Trade Organization (WTO). Member countries have already submitted nine proposals with varying parameters on subsidy bans that will be reviewed at the 2019 WTO Ministerial Conference, where a single agreement on fisheries subsidies will be adopted. Our model will provide WTO delegates, negotiators, and other groups that can influence decision making with important information on the likely economic and biological consequences of the proposed subsidy reforms.


Though 90% of global fish stocks are either fully exploited or overfished, governments around the world continue to provide billions of dollars in subsidies to their fisheries sector, offsetting operational costs, fuel costs, and the costs associated with building or modernizing vessels. These subsidies enable fishers to remove excess fish from the sea, and without them, more than half of all high seas fishing would be unprofitable. Approximately three billion people on the planet rely on the oceans for their protein, thus reforming subsidies and curbing overfishing is critical for ensuring global food security and protecting the marine environment.


Using satellite data from Global Fishing Watch, our team is modeling--down to the individual vessel level--which fleets will be affected by each of the nine WTO subsidy reform proposals. Once we have identified the fleets affected by each proposed subsidy reform, we will use a bioeconomic model to forecast the effects of reduced fishing effort on the health of fish stocks around the world. With over four million vessels fishing on the global ocean, our analysis will be the first of its kind to empirically evaluate how global fisheries subsidies influence fishing behavior and overfishing. 


This project is a collaborative effort between SFG and the Pew Charitable Trusts.