The Global Ocean Commission, which includes former World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Pascal Lamy and international government and business leaders, today called on the WTO to reach a “speedy agreement” to eliminate fuel subsidies for high seas fishing, starting with an immediate cap and phase-out within five years.
“Eliminating fuel subsidies is one of the greatest actions that can be taken to protect the world’s oceans,” said Courtney Sakai, chief of staff at Oceana. “High seas and distant water fishing fleets would not be profitable, and able to continue overfishing, without the egregious government fuel subsidies that allow them to traverse the oceans.”
Fuel subsidies amount to approximately 30 percent of total government fisheries spending. Studies have shown that the world’s high seas fleets would not be profitable without government fuel subsidies. Many of the fish species found in deep waters are long-lived and slow-growing, making them particularly vulnerable to exploitation, which is worsened by subsidies that keep fleets at sea beyond what would be economically feasible.
“The Commission’s call to eliminate high seas fuel subsidies is a much needed push on the WTO to take action to address harmful fisheries subsidies,” said Sakai.
The WTO has failed to produce an agreement on fisheries subsidies, despite a dedicated negotiation and repeated international commitments during the last decade.
In addition, the Commission asked WTO members to urgently adopt full transparency by disclosing to the organization, and to each other, the type and scope of subsidies they provide to the fisheries sector. The Commission also recommended that the WTO review and identify those programs that are harmful and essential in the phase-out of negative financial incentives.
About the Commission
The Global Ocean Commission is an independent international commission made up of former heads of state, ministers and business leaders. It was established in 2013 and tasked with analyzing the main challenges and threats to the high seas and developing technically and politically achievable proposals to address them.
Government subsidies to the worldwide fishing industry are one of the most significant factors driving overcapacity, and in turn, overfishing and other destructive fishing practices. These subsidies amount to an estimated $35 billion annually, of which at least $20 billion directly support increased fishing capacity. Harmful fisheries subsidies are equal to approximately 25 percent of the value of the global fish catch, making the intensity of these subsidies greater than those for agriculture.