Governments spend billions supporting fisheries each year


BBV2 tuning

The fisheries sector makes a key contribution to global food security and the ocean economy. Government support can enhance this contribution when it helps ensure the health of fish stocks and ecosystems, increases fish stock productivity, and builds resilience in the fisheries sector. But poorly targeted government support can also have undesirable outcomes when it encourages the build-up of excess fishing capacity, which can lead to overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.


The OECD Review of Fisheries 2022 finds that among the 40 countries and economies covered by the OECD Fisheries Support Estimate (FSE) database, USD 10.4 billion were spent by governments, annually, to support the fisheries sector in 2018-2020. This support equated to about 11% of the average value of fish harvested and landed in these countries and economies over the period, down from about 14% in 2012-14.

Total support to fisheries

Source: OECD (2022), OECD Review of Fisheries 2022.                                                                              

Large fishing nations also tend to be large subsidizers in absolute terms, but relative to the size of the sector, the picture is more varied


The countries providing the greatest levels of support to their fisheries also tend to have some of the largest fisheries sectors. Six economies accounted for 86% of all support reported in 2018-20: the People’s Republic of China – 38% (down from just under half of all reported support in 2012-14), Japan – 13%, the United States – 10%, Canada – 8%, Brazil – 6%, while EU Member countries together accounted for just under 9%. These six economies were also in the top seven in terms of global catch volume, fleet capacity or employment. However, relative to the size of the sector, support to fisheries in 2018-20 was proportionally highest in Poland, Sweden, Slovenia, Denmark and Brazil.


Support policy mixes also largely vary across countries


Support to fisheries is made up of many different policies that vary in nature and potential socio-economic or environmental outcomes. For example, support to management, monitoring, control and surveillance, when effective, directly contributes to ensuring the health of fish stocks and the sutinability of fisheires. On the other hand, support that increases the benefits of fishing, or reduces the costs of fishing, can lead to increased fishing pressure and potentially harm fish stock health and the profitability and resilience of fisheries. Thus, when comparing levels of support, it is also informative to distinguish between the types of policies being considered. 

FSE support policy mix in individual countries and economies
Source: OECD (2022), OECD Review of Fisheries 2022.                                                                              

How much of this support contributes to sustainable outcomes, and how much risks causing damage to fish stocks and fishers’ livelihoods?


Ensuring that support to fisheries does not undermine the health of fish stocks is key to achieving socio-economic objectives and a sustainable ocean. The OECD has developed a tool to help governments assess the risk that their support policies may present for fish stock health (depicted below). It classifies fisheries support types based on the level of risk they may pose to fishery sustainability, and lists mitigating factors that can limit this risk.

A self-assessment tool to identify the policies that risk encouraging unsustainable fishing 

 Fisheries matrixSource: OECD (2022), OECD Review of Fisheries 2022.                                                                             

Seen through this risk-based framework, FSE data shows that the risk of encouraging unsustainable fishing via government support varies between OECD countries and emerging economies and evolutions in risk profiles have also differed.


Overall, 42% of the support provided in OECD countries in 2018-20 presented no risk of encouraging unsustainable fishing, as it was targeted at ensuring productive and sustainable fisheries through spending on management, monitoring, control, and surveillance (MMCS). Conversely, only 12% of OECD fisheries support presented a high risk of encouraging unsustainable fishing in the absence of effective fisheries management – and this support mostly consisted of subsidised fuel and vessels.


Source: OECD (2022), OECD Review of Fisheries 2022.                                                        

In emerging economies, on the other hand, the majority (53%) of support provided in 2018-20 came from policies that present a high risk of encouraging unsustainable fishing in the absence of effective fisheries management (mainly support to fuel). Proportionly this types of support declined in the last decade driven primarily by a reduction in fuel support in China.


However, variation in these shares is also significant across OECD countries and  emerging economies. In all cases, there are areas where policy reform could contribute to further lowering the risk of encouraging unsustainable fishing.


Read more:


Related Documents