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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Classifying and estimating aquaculture subsidies and their risks to the marine environment Mejaes, Barbara Ann


Aquaculture is a rapidly growing sector in global food production and is increasingly recognized as an integral component of aquatic food systems to meet the rising global consumption of seafood per capita. Some of this growth is subsidized by governments, but only a handful of country-scale studies have quantified, but not classified, aquaculture subsidies. For the aquaculture sector to contribute sustainably to food and economic security, it is crucial that if governments decide to provide subsidies, the funding is deployed efficiently and without exacerbating ecological harm. So, I begin to fill this gap in understanding the types and magnitude of subsidies provided to aquaculture. First, I explore the lessons that can be learned from the subsidization of two other major food production sectors, i.e., agriculture and fisheries, as aquaculture exists on a spectrum between both sectors. Across agriculture and fisheries, I analyze the breadth of subsidy classification systems. Next, I develop a bespoke classification system for aquaculture. I examine the relative risks of aquaculture systems on the marine environment and classify subsidy types, before discussing how subsidies may exacerbate or lessen the relative risks posed by different aquaculture systems. Finally, I examine the aquaculture practices and subsidies of four of the largest mariculture producers in the world: China, Indonesia, Norway, and Chile. Together, these four countries represent over 70% of mariculture production globally and provided an estimated 5.24 billion USD in subsidies to the sector. By classifying and estimating each country’s aquaculture production systems and subsidies, I was able to propose alternative considerations for governments. As each of the four countries aim to develop more sustainable aquaculture, it is important that they also ensure that their subsidies are not counteracting their objectives and that appropriate requirements exist to target subsidies more efficiently and mindfully. This work highlights that subsidies need to be carefully considered within the mariculture sector. In particular, it is important to understand the environmental risks associated with different production systems to avoid exacerbating these risks via subsidization.

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