By now, plenty of people are familiar with fossil fuel subsidies — the hundreds of billions that governments spend to bankroll the burning of oil, gas, and coal. We've also heard plenty about farm subsidies that can promote unhealthy food or destructive practices. Scaling back these programs has been a major priority of reformers over the years.
Now we can add another bête noire to the list: fishing subsidies.
A recent paper in Marine Policy estimates that governments spend more than $35 billion a year to subsidize fishing activities worldwide. The majority of these taxpayer subsidies — around $20 billion — contribute to overfishing by making it artificially cheap to hunt for fish. That enables bigger trawlers to fish the ocean for longer, stressing fish populations beyond what's sustainable.
Given that about 30 percent of the world's fish stocks are already overexploited, this is a real problem. If we want to ensure that there are enough fish around for future generations, subsidy reform wouldn't be a bad place to start.