23 May 2007

Subsidising fisheries destruction

From today's Bangkok Post, and also appearing in the Daily Telegraph:

Pierre Gagnaire, whose Michelin three-star restaurant in Paris regularly wins plaudits as one of the world's best, said that there were now too many restaurants like his own, ploughing their way through large quantities of certain raw materials considered as delicacies. ... "in the next five to 10 years there will be no wild fish, only farmed fish. That will have a huge impact on not only cooking techniques, but also flavours and the dishes we cook."

Mr Gagnaire's fatalism is unfortunate, but probably justifiable. As a species, we still haven't got round to stopping subsidies to fishing, which are variously estimated at $6.7 billion annually (by OECD), $15 billion (by the WWF) or $14-20 billion (by the World Bank, in 1998). Disciplines on subsidies are supposed to be considered in the stalled Doha Round of trade talks, but as the Global Subsidies Initiative puts it "the probability that new, tighter international disciplines on fish subsidies will enter into force any time soon is low." Note that any such disciplines would be imposed for reasons of economic competition, rather than conservation; no bad thing, but still.... Meanwhile, and from the same source, "According to the FAO, around 75 % of the world's commercial fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited or significantly depleted."

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