Friday, November 27, 2009

How your taxes pay to despoil the environment

One of the many depressing things about overfishing is the extent to which taxpayers fund it through subsidies to the industry.

Rashid Sumaila at the University of British Columbia and colleagues have recently completed a study of how this works for deep-sea fish.

Deep-sea fish are long lived and slow growing, and as a consequence most of them are horribly over-exploited. The team studied the subsidies paid to bottom trawl fleets on the high seas--in other words, those outside of the exclusive waters owned by nations. Fisheries subsidies to these fleets are about $152m per year, about 25% of the total landed value of the fish.

Economic data for bottom trawlers suggest that the profit is usually no more than 10% of the landed value. Without these subsidies, says economist Dr Sumaila, most of the world's bottom trawl fleet would be operating at a loss and unable to fish. Simply cutting this funding would have a major effect on reducing the current threat to deep-sea and high-seas fish stocks.

Think such misspending of your money is bad? It is a drop in the ocean compared to the billions of dollars spent annually that encourage the use of fossil fuels. Cutting fossil fuel subsidies, say studies by the International Energy Agency and the Organisation for Economic Development, would result in a carbon saving of 10% by 2020.