Overwhelming Public Support for Ban on Fishing for Endangered Species, Poll Finds

04 Jan 2020

Max Hall, Public Engagement, +41 79 329 3500, Email: mhal@weforum.org

  • New global survey shows three out of four adults say we should ban fishing of endangered species (77%) and stop government fisheries subsidies that lead to overfishing and illegal fishing (73%).
  • It comes as World Trade Organization members face pressure to end fisheries subsidies that deplete fish stocks and threaten food security for millions of people
  • Among G20 countries surveyed: support is high for a subsidy ban in Argentina (81%), Mexico (82%) and China (79%); and lower in India (66%), Japan (48%) and Saudi Arabia (65%).
  • Over $2.5 million per hour – $22.2 billion a year – of public money was spent on harmful fisheries subsidies last year.
  • Details at www.friendsofoceanaction.org and at https://wef.ch/overfishing.

Geneva, Tuesday 08 January – More than seven in 10 adults who regularly buy seafood (77% worldwide) support a ban on the fishing of endangered species, according to a new survey commissioned by the World Economic Forum and conducted by Ipsos Group.

Consumer support for policies to curb overfishing is also widespread: 73% agree with a ban on government subsidies to fisheries that contribute to overfishing, overcapacity and illegal fishing – a key target of the Sustainable Development Goals. More than seven in 10 adults also support a ban on selling endangered species of fish in shops and restaurants.

The results are available here.

They also coincide with a critical stage in negotiations for a deal at the World Trade Organization to end harmful fisheries subsidies by mid-2020. A deal is one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, agreed by all UN member states.

“The results of this poll show overwhelming support among global citizens for an end to overfishing and policies that threaten the health of the ocean. Billions of dollars’ worth of seafood is illegally taken from the ocean every year – stolen from communities, countries and scientific management. Consumers should not and do not wish to be receivers of stolen goods. Global leaders have a stronger than ever mandate from people across the world to bring about positive change,” said Ambassador Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean and Co-Chair of Friends of Ocean Action (a group of more than 50 global leaders, convened by the World Economic Forum and World Resources Institute).

The survey polled 19,517 adults under the age of 75 in 28 countries. It asked the 14,057 adults (71%) who buy fish at least once a month about their attitudes to sustainable fishing and policies to curb overfishing.

When asked about their attitudes to sustainable fishing, more than 70% of people who buy fish regularly said that each of the following criteria is very or somewhat important to them when choosing a specific type of fish:

· Not on a list of species at risk of disappearing (i.e. has population declined sharply)? Important to 81% of people, including a large majority in nearly every country (between 70% and 91%).

· Sustainably caught or farmed in a way that does not lead to the fish population declining over time? Important to 80% of people, including a large majority in nearly every country (between 73% and 89%).

· Caught or farmed locally? Important to 72% of people, including a majority in every single country (from 52% in Japan to 86% in Peru).

When asked about policies to curb overfishing, 70% of all adults strongly or somewhat supported the following policies and less than 10% strongly or somewhat opposed them:

· Banning fishing of all endangered species: supported by 77% of people, including a large majority in nearly every country (between 66% and 91%); opposed by 7%.

· Banning shops and restaurants from selling endangered species of fish: supported by 77% of people, including a large majority in nearly every country (between 66% and 90%); opposed by 7%.

· Banning government subsidies to fisheries that contribute to overfishing, overcapacity and illegal fishing: supported by 73% of people, including a large majority in nearly every country (between 65% and 87%); opposed by 7%.

· Requiring shops and restaurants to inform consumers about the endangered status of the fish species they sell: supported by 71% of people, including a large majority in nearly every country (between 60% and 85%); opposed by 8%.

Businesses, governments and civil society are ramping up efforts to make high-impact, systemic change to humanity’s relationship with the ocean.

In October, Sir David Attenborough, the Friends of Ocean Action, the World Economic Forum and WWF issued a powerful video message for trade delegates as they met at the WTO. Watch the video at https://wef.ch/overfishing.

The Friends of Ocean Action outlined a vision to end illegal fishing in the Pacific in an article by Jim Leape, Co-Director of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions.

Over $2.5 million per hour – $22.2 billion a year – of public money is spent on harmful fisheries subsidies according to an analysis in Marine Policy, the most up-to-date and comprehensive study of fishing subsidies produced to date. But the seafood industry would gain $53 billion a year from an increase in marine stocks if these harmful subsidies are ended, according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Improvement in global fisheries management can also bring economic gains estimated at $83 billion, according to the World Bank.

Over 59 million people work in fisheries and aquaculture and hundreds of millions more rely on seafood as their primary source of protein. These livelihoods and people’s food security are at risk from declining fish stocks.

Over 33% of the world’s fish are harvested at biologically unsustainable levels, while 60% are fully exploited, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization – yet nearly one in three fish caught around the world never makes it to the plate. Meanwhile, the demand for food from the ocean is rising due to a growing and increasingly urbanized population.

“More than $20 billion of public funds are spent every year on harmful fisheries subsidies, over 80% of which go to industrial fleets. These fleets are out there chasing diminishing stocks of fish and are in some cases engaged in illegal fishing. These funds would be far more usefully spent on climate-proofing coastal communities,” said Ambassador Thomson.

Campaigners argue that a global trade deal ending harmful fisheries subsidies is a vital step to saving the ocean – with positive knock-on benefits for other areas of ocean and human health.

Notes to editors

Watch the video https://wef.ch/overfishing

About the Friends of Ocean Action: www.friendsofoceanaction.org

About the World Economic Forum: www.weforum.org

About the World Resources Institute: www.wri.org

More details on SDG14 and the four targets agreed by all UN members that need to be met by 2020: https://oceanconference.un.org/sdg14

Read our blogs: https://wef.ch/agenda

Learn about the Forum’s impact on http://wef.ch/impact

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All opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Economic Forum Blog is an independent and neutral platform dedicated to generating debate around the key topics that shape global, regional and industry agendas.