Article: Assessing the economic viability of small-scale fisheries: an example from Mexico


Anna Schuhbauer*, Andrés M. Cisneros-Montemayor*, Ratana Chuenpagdee**, and U. Rashid Sumaila*

* TBTI cluster coordinator
** TBTI Project Director

Small-scale fisheries (SSF) are generally understudied, their impacts on marine ecosystems not well documented and their vulnerability to large-scale change processes not fully recognized. A better understanding of the dynamics and underlying drivers of SSF is imperative given their important contributions to local economies and community wellbeing. We argue that an assessment of the economic viability of SSF can help improve governance for this sector. Economic viability is defined here as the net benefit to society from fisheries, accounting for subsidies that represent a private benefit to fishing sectors but a cost for society at large, that are above or equal to zero over time. We developed an approach to assess economic viability using data that is often available at national scale, including estimates of total revenue from fishing, total costs of fishing, and fisheries subsidies for SSF and large-scale fisheries (LSF). We applied the methodology to Mexican fisheries and found that LSF receive subsidy amounts disproportionate to their landings and employment relative to the SSF sector; when these subsidies are taken out, SSF are generally more economically viable than their LSF counterparts. To improve the economic viability of SSF, key recommendations include the redirection and redistribution of subsidies, better monitoring, and improved access to data.