Fish Night 2 looks at finance for sustainable fisheries


Academics, representatives of non-governmental organisations, consultants, marine scientists and students gathered in London for IIED's Fish Night 2 and a discussion on alternative financing mechanisms for sustainable fisheries.

Althelia Ecosphere's Simon Dent speaking at Fish Night 2 (Photo: Inta Photography)

Althelia Ecosphere's Simon Dent speaking at Fish Night 2 (Photo: Inta Photography)

Fisheries sustain the livelihoods of millions of people around the world. But fish stocks and marine environments face growing pressures, including overfishing, habitat degradation, pollution and climate change. There is urgent need to reverse this trend and transition to a more sustainable fisheries management. A key challenge is mobilising adequate and sustainable financial resources to ensure the transition. 

Fish Night 2 is IIED's second annual event focused on sustainable fisheries. This year's event looked at what governments and the private sector could do to promote sustainable fisheries. The evening featured two presentations: one looking at government taxes and subsidies and the other highlighting the potential of impact investment as a financing option.

The video playlist below includes the two main presentations, plus an introduction to Fish Night 2 by IIED director Camilla Toulmin, together with an interview with IIED's senior researcher in environmental economics Essam Yassin Mohammed.


Government taxes and subsidies: the minnow and the whale

IIED's chief economist, Paul Steele, looked at government policies affecting fisheries. He said the two key fiscal instruments were taxes on fishing vs subsidies to promote fishing activity.

Fishing taxes were much smaller than government subsidies for increased capacity. Steele said the contrast between the two mechanisms was so great that they could be described as 'the minnow'(taxes) and 'the whale' (subsidies).

Steele said global attempts to reduce fishing subsidies had had little success, despite ten years of negotiations. Fishing subsides remained high, at over US$35 billion in 2013, leading to over-fishing.

Steele said the picture was more positive for fishery license fees. A number of countries had increased fees for fishing licences. For example, in the Pacific, fees for tuna had increased fourfold to US$230 million in 2012.

However, licence fees were still dwarfed by subsidies. In many regions, fisheries would be unprofitable were it not for subsidies, particularly in the European Union.  

Steele said it was important to distinguish between harmful subsidies — which increased fishing capacity — and beneficial or "good" subsidies that could help sustainable management of fisheries. There had been limited progress in moving away from harmful subsidies, such as subsidies for fuel for boats, towards beneficial subsidies such as incentives for monitoring and enforcement.

Steele said the main global opportunity was that the elimination of harmful fishing subsidies was being proposed as a target in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).   

You can see the slides from Steele's presentation below or on IIED's SlideShare site:

Impact investment for sustainable fisheries

The second presentation was by Simon Dent, of investment fund Althelia Ecosphere. Dent outlined the potential of private sector 'impact investments' as a mechanism for promoting sustainable fisheries.

Impact investments are investments that are made to generate a measurable social and environmental impact, as well as a financial returns.

Althelia Ecosphere currently invests in projects that reduce deforestation, mitigate climate change, protect biodiversity and provide a sustainable living to rural communities.

Dent said Althelia's first fund had raised approximately 100m euros, both from public and private investors. The fund invested for the long-term - typically eight years. The investment level was about $10m per project.

Dent said Althelia believed that there was potential for impact investments in the fisheries sector. He said: "Althelia is looking at what we can with the impact-investment model that we have learned in forestry and bring it to what we call sea-scapes. We believe that we can take our investment rationale and apply it to a sustainable sea-scape approach."

Dent emphasised that being an impact investment fund, Althelia would seek to make an economic return but the return would be underpinned by 'best-in-class' social and environmental governance.

You can see the slides from Dent's presentation below or on IIED's SlideShare site:

The presentations were followed by a lively question-and-answer session with the audience. The evening ended with informal networking, providing an opportunity for those involved in promoting sustainable fisheries to share the latest news and research.

Fish Night 2 was covered live on IIED's Twitter service, and we published a round-up via Storify.

Find out more:

Last year's Fish Night saw the launch of FishNet, an online platform that promotes increased understanding and appropriate management for sustainable fisheries. 

The first Fish Night also saw the launch of Economic Incentives for Marine and Coastal Conservation, a book edited by Essam Yassin Mohammed, senior researcher in the IIED's Sustainable Markets research group.  

IIED researchers have been working in Bangladesh on a project that aims to protect fish stocks and at the same time secure the livelihoods of local fishing communities.