The world is not so flat: Africa fishing edition

From a page one Wall Street Journal article from today:

You just know where this is heading…

Nouadhibou, Mauritania — Sall Samba prospered for years by catching octopus in the bountiful seas near this scruffy port town on Africa’s west coast.

Today, he struggles to catch half what he did just a few years ago. Tough times recently forced him to beach two of his three canoes and to fire 10 fishermen. “You used to be able to fish right in the port,” says Mr. Samba, a 39-year-old father of six. “Now, the only thing you can catch here is water.”

Mauritania’s octopus shortage is the result of the global trade in fishing rights between rich countries and poor. Impoverished nations like Mauritania have been selling access to their seas to European and Asian nations that have fished out their own waters. As a result, small fry like Mr. Samba must compete with huge trawlers from Spain, Russia and China. These days, at least 340 foreign boats are licensed to fish off Mauritania.


Sure enough:

Wealthy countries subsidize their commercial fishermen to the tune of about $30 billion a year.

Who called it? Who called it?

[Wealthy countries’] goal is to keep their fishermen on the water. China, for example, provides $2 billion a year in fuel subsidies; the European Union and its member nations provide more than $7 billion of subsidies a year. Such policies boost the number of working boats, increase the global catch and drive down fish prices. That makes it more difficult for fishermen in poor nations like Mauritania, who get no subsidies, to compete.