Roberts on Fuel Subsidies: No Thanks - Oceana USA
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July 18, 2008

Roberts on Fuel Subsidies: No Thanks

Callum Roberts, author of the excellent tome “The Unnatural History of the Sea,” has tackled the nexus of ecology and economy in his blog on the Island Press website. Rising fuel costs, it seems, may be a blessing for stressed fish stocks now that many fishing ships can no longer afford to travel long distances for their catch.I was inspired to write about this issue after reading an essay in Harper’s about the fallibility of Gross Domestic Product. But Roberts introduces some concrete facts to put this all in perspective. “If cod, haddock or flounder find their way onto your plate, the fuel cost of catching them was a third to a half of the weight of your fillet,” he writes. “If line caught swordfish or tuna are your favourites, the fuel burnt to catch them was roughly equal to the weight of your fish portion.”Yikes. Fishermen are already protesting high fuel costs, and demand additional government subsidies to cover the difference. Here at Oceana, we already know fuel subsidies are a bad idea. The fishing industry has depended on $20 billion in government handouts long before fuel costs skyrocketed. Thankfully our Cut the Bait team is already on the case, working hard at the World Trade Organization to ensure that subsidies don’t increase – and that fish populations around the world get a much-needed rest.