This article presents the first bottom-up analysis of the proportion of global marine fisheries subsidies to small-scale fisheries (SSF). Using existing data, the reported national subsidy amounts are split into the fraction that goes to small- and large-scale fishing sectors. Results reveal a major imbalance in subsidy distribution, with SSF receiving only about 16% of the total global fisheries subsidy amount of $35 billion in 2009. To bring this into perspective, a person engaged in large-scale fishing received around 4 times the amount of subsidies received by their SSF counterparts. Furthermore, almost 90% of capacity-enhancing subsidies, which are known to exacerbate overfishing go to large-scale fisheries, thus increasing the unfair competitive advantage that large-scale fisheries already have. The developmental, economic and social consequences of this inequity are huge and impair the economic viability of the already vulnerable small-scale fishing sector. Conclusions indicate that taxpayers’ money should be used to support sustainable fishing practices and in turn ocean conservation, and not to foster the degradation of marine ecosystems, often a result of capacity-enhancing subsidies. Reducing capacity-enhancing subsidies will have minimal negative effects on SSF communities since they receive very little of these subsidies to begin with. Instead, it will help correct the existing inequality, enhance SSF economic viability, and promote global fisheries sustainability.
The goal of the ‘Catching Ripples’ workshop was to further develop our understanding of regime shifts and other forms of rapid change at the land-sea interface. Workshop participants explored how linking social theory with ecological theory may help to address the challenge of rapid change, and to consider the emergent concept of linked ‘Social-Ecological Regime Shifts’ (SERS). The workshop was thus designed to draw on the insights of an interdisciplinary group of applied scholars and practitioners engaged in assessing or navigating the biophysical, social and policy dimensions of regime shifts and rapid change in coastal watersheds.