Fuel Subsidies to Marine Fisheries in India

An overview

Fuel subsidies are one of the most common types of government support to the fisheries sector. This brief presents an overview of fuel subsidies to marine fisheries in India, explains why such measures can be risky from a sustainability perspective, and highlights how possible reform could be informed by India's experience in reforming fossil fuel subsidies more broadly.

By Shruti Sharma, Tristan Irschlinger on July 19, 2022
  • In the 2019 fiscal year, fuel subsidies to marine fisheries accounted for an estimated 32% of total government support to the sector.

  • Fuel subsidies tend to accrue more significant benefits to well-off consumers who can afford to purchase more subsidized fuel, so larger vessels can receive 4 times more diesel subsidies than smaller vessels.

  • With millions of livelihoods depending on fishing activities, fuel subsidies need careful evaluation to assess if they are effective and efficient in supporting low-income fishers in India.

Marine fisheries are an important economic sector in India, in particular, because they provide livelihoods to millions of often small-scale and low-income fishers and nutritional security to many more people across the country. Ensuring that government support to the sector preserves and improves fisheries’ ability to meet the Indian population's needs sustainably is thus a key policy objective. However, some common types of fisheries subsidies, like fuel subsidies, are well known for the risks they can pose to the sustainable exploitation of marine resources.

This brief presents an overview of fuel subsidies to marine fisheries in India and provides a number of key figures and facts on these support measures, including new, updated state-level information on the level of support in four focus states—Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu—which account for more than 50% of total fish landings in India. The brief then explains why fuel subsidies to marine fishers should be carefully evaluated and possibly reformed to support fishers and coastal communities in a more efficient and sustainable way. It concludes by highlighting a few key lessons from broader fossil fuel subsidy reform in the country that could possibly be applied to the reform of fuel subsidies to marine fisheries.

Brief details

Sustainable Development Goals
Fisheries Subsidies
Focus area
IISD, 2022