The only thing worse than overfishing our oceans and driving species to the brink of extinction is the government paying to do it. That’s been the case for far too long, as upwards of $30 billion (that’s billion, with a “b”) worth of subsidies are handed over to the fishing industry every year. A whopping $20 billion of that is used for things like boat repairs, fishing equipment, and fuel — expenses that allow for increased and intensified fishing practices.
This soon could be a thing of the past, now that 13 Senators from across the political spectrum introduced a resolution on Thursday night calling for the U.S. to pursue an international ban on government subsidies to the fishing industry. Days before, the U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization proposed a broad prohibition against fisheries subsidies at WTO negotiations in Geneva including delegates representing the WTO’s 150-member countries.
The WTO is the best chance for success in eliminating these harmful fisheries subsidies, so we need an overall deal in the Doha round of trade talks, which remains to be seen.
What is certain is that if the depletion of ocean species continues at current rates, our seafood supply could collapse before the middle of the century. According to a groundbreaking report in Science last year, scientists are concerned about the effects of marine species loss on our supply of wild seafood and other essential ecosystem goods or services. Using global catch data they found that catches of 29 percent of wild populations of seafood have already dropped to less than 10 percent of their maximum.