The US House of Representatives yesterday unanimously passed a resolution (H.Con.Res.94) calling for the United States to pursue a ban on government subsidies to the fishing sector that are contributing to the overfishing of the world's oceans through ongoing international negotiations. In early May, the US Senate also unanimously approved a resolution (S. Res. 208) on fisheries subsidies.
The resolution was led by Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans. Other cosponsors include Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), Thomas Allen (D-ME), Sam Farr (D-CA), Jim Saxton (R-NJ), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Lois Capps (D-CA), Mike Honda (D-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA.), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Stephen Cohen (D-TN), Luis Fortuño (R-PR), George Miller (D-CA) and Mary Bono (R-CA).
"The very diverse U.S. Congress has made it clear that the pillaging of our oceans and the subsidies that support these destructive fishing activities must end," said Courtney Sakai, campaign director at Oceana. "The united support of the U.S. Congress continues the worldwide call on the World Trade Organization to seize the unprecedented opportunity it has to reduce the colossal subsidies to the fishing sector that are systematically destroying the world's oceans."
The United States is involved in negotiations in the World Trade Organization as part of the ongoing Doha "trade round" to strengthen the international rules on fisheries subsidies, including through the prohibition of subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing. In May, 125 scientists from 27 countries, also warned the WTO of the dangers of failing to act on fisheries subsidies, asserting that unless it significantly reduces worldwide subsidies to the fishing sector, global overfishing and other destructive fishing practices will likely result in permanent damage to ocean ecosystems.
According to a recent study by the University of British Columbia, worldwide fisheries subsidies are estimated at $30 to $34 billion annually. At least $20 billion -equal to approximately 25 percent of world fishing revenue -- are "harmful" subsidies that drive increased and intensified fishing by providing support for boat construction and modernization, fishing equipment and fuel and other operational costs. The billions of dollars given by governments as subsidies contribute to overcapacity in commercial fishing fleets worldwide, which in turn lead to the overfishing of global fish populations.