This paper contributes to the literature on subsidies in the fishing industry and its implications for fishery governance and sustainability. Using a political ecology approach, we examine the political forces behind the distribution of subsidized premix fuel by disclosing the winners and losers, and the implications of unequal access to subsidies on declining fish stock and small-scale marine fishery governance in Ghana. The empirical data consisted of 300 household surveys and 20 in-depth interviews with relevant stakeholders from the Western Region of Ghana. The findings indicate that significant controversies exist in the distribution of fuel subsidies among small-scale fisherfolk. There are high levels of asymmetrical power relations among the local fishers. Access to vital subsidized fishing input (specifically premix fuel) is highly characterized by unequal power relations between the politically connected and the less connected within the fishing communities. This distributive inequality has had deleterious consequences on fisherfolk livelihood in terms of reduced frequency of fishing, reduction in catch, frequent damage of outboard motors and increased illegality in fishing. This study calls on governments and policy makers interested in fisheries subsidy reforms to consider the impact of unequal access to subsidies on vulnerable groups. In addition to livelihood diversification, a target intervention must consider beneficiaries’ characteristics – the winners and losers, to ensure the most vulnerable groups and less politically connected are treated equitably in the distribution of subsidies.
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- Small-scale fisheries
- Fisheries subsidies
- Coastal Ghana