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Reporting on Fisheries Subsidies

Every year, governments around the world spend more than US$22 billion supporting the fishing industry with gear, operating costs, new construction, and other improvements. Those subsidies have allowed vessels to catch more fish than can be naturally regenerated, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) currently estimates a third of fish stocks are used unsustainably.   

Along with the effect subsidies have on ocean biodiversity and fish stocks, the livelihoods of small fishers in countries the world over are also at risk, as the subsidies often flow to the most well-connected firms, exacerbating the inequity between large- and small-scale fishing. 

In order to support journalists covering fisheries issues, EJN has undertaken a project with the support of the Pew Charitable Trusts to host a series of webinars and provide story grants for reporters globally. Along with building the capacity of journalists covering fisheries issues, the project also seeks to increase the media coverage of fisheries subsidies issues as the World Trade Organization continues negotiating a major deal on the subject. 

The first phase of the project began in 2019 with a particular focus on India, where $277 million in subsidies is provided annually. Experts believe more than 60% of those subsidies are leading to overfishing. Subsidies in India have also risen dramatically in the last few years, particularly in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Karnataka.  

In the first phase, EJN hosted workshops to build journalist capacity and facilitated field trips, so reporters could see the impacts of unsustainable fishing and harmful fisheries subsidies firsthand. The project also supported several journalists across India with story grants to cover fisheries issues in the country, including illegal fishing and subsidies.  

In 2021, as the World Trade Organization geared up to begin – and attempt to complete – negotiations on a global fisheries subsidies deal, EJN and Pew began phase 2 of the project. While still retaining a focus on India, phase 2 expands the project’s work globally. It specifically focuses on several priority regions and countries: India, Japan, the Caribbean and coastal Africa (particularly Western and Southern Africa).   

To allow journalists opportunities to speak to global and regional fisheries subsidies experts, a series of webinars was held to address topics related to subsidies and overfishing. Specifically, EJN hosted a global webinar as an introduction to the topic, followed by regional webinars in India, the CaribbeanWest Africa (in French), Southern and Eastern Africa (in English) and Japan. These webinars brought together academics, NGO leaders, journalists, advocates and fishers to discuss the challenges and solutions to developing sustainable fisheries around the world. 

Eighteen journalists were awarded story grants across the world, with preference for the priority regions, to assist journalists in covering their countries’ fisheries subsidies policies, the potential impact of a WTO deal and the solutions needed for a sustainable fisheries industry. Stories have focused on harbor construction projects impeding traditional fishing grounds, the impact of subsidies and overfishing on artisanal fishers and more. 

Browse the stories produced by this project below. 

Banner image: A trawler off the coast of Goa, India / Credit: Cycling Man via Flickr