Today Andrew F. Sharpless, CEO of Oceana issued the following statement on the start of legal negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO) to eliminate overfishing subsidies:
Fishing fleets awash in government subsidies are fishing the world’s oceans to death. Without decisive action now, the world’s fisheries that provide the primary protein source for a billion people will soon be gone. Eliminating the global subsidies that drive overfishing is the largest single action we can take to protect our fisheries.
The introduction of the first legal text proposals in talks in the World Trade Organization to end overfishing subsidies is a major action towards solving this intractable problem. It is a step beyond rhetoric and toward resolution. The broad coalition of conservation, consumer, and business interests, along with nations large and small, in support of this initiative can be assured that their efforts have born fruit. But, the hardest work is still in front of us and we must be more determined than ever to see these negotiations to a successful conclusion.
Concerns about the decline world fish populations and the causal relationship of subsidies to overcapacity and overfishing led to the inclusion of fisheries subsidies in the agenda issued in 2001 for the current <city w:st="on"><place w:st="on">Doha</place></city> trade “round” – the first <personname w:st="on">tim</personname>e that conservation considerations, in addition to trade priorities, led to the launch of a negotiation. Today’s deadline for the submission of legal text-based proposals for the upcoming negotiations in mid-March in Geneva signals the most concrete step forward in these discussions to date.
Fisheries subsidies are large, producing a worldwide fleet that some estimate to be 250 percent larger than what is needed to fish at sustainable levels. According to conservative estimates, subsidies account for 20 to 25 percent of global fishing revenue -- approximately $15-$20 billion each year. Fisheries subsidies also appear to be concentrated in relatively few countries, disadvantaging fishing communities elsewhere, including those in the <country-region w:st="on"><place w:st="on">United States</place></country-region>.
The mass subsidization of the fishing industry is occurring at a <personname w:st="on">tim</personname>e when nearly all of the world’s fish populations are in jeopardy from overfishing and other destructive fishing practices. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 75 percent of the world’s fisheries are now overexploited, fully exploited, significantly depleted or recovering from overexploitation. A recent Oceana analysis of more than a hundred fisheries in the Atlantic between the Arctic Sea and the Gulf of Cadiz concluded that more than half should be closed immediately due to depletion, and only one in ten had enough fish to sustain current fishing levels. These populations include ones of high commercial value and because many of these fish are at the top of the ocean food chain, their depletion is disrupting marine ecosystems worldwide.
Of additional concern is the fact that more than a billion people worldwide depend on fish as their primary source of protein and millions, in both developed and developing countries, depend on fishing for all or part of their income.