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January 15, 2008

More on Africa and subsidies

Yesterday’s front page New York Times story, “Europe Takes Africa’s Fish, and Boatloads of Migrants Follow,” chronicles the human cost of overfishing. Fueled by billions in government subsidies, European fleets empty out west African waters, leaving nothing for subsistence fishermen. I wrote about this in an earlier post, but it’s an important enough issue to warrant reiteration.

Wasteful subsidies promote mismanagement on both the European and African sides. Too often, countries strike subsidy agreements without any regard for the consequences, and the large amounts of money involved invite corruption and perversity. As Oceana’s subsidies campaign director Courtney Sakai put it to me this morning, when we discussed the article: “It completely undoes good management.”

That’s why we are pressuring the WTO to cut back on subsidies, and enforce transparency in subsidy agreements. Subsistence fishermen, not to mention fish, don’t stand a chance without changes at the top level of governance.