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December 5, 2013

CEO Note: Conservation Needs Strong International Trade Laws

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Conservation is an international challenge, especially when it comes to our oceans. Earlier this month the presidents and CEOs of 24 leading conservation organizations, including Oceana, send a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman urging him to incorporate fisheries subsidies reform into the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

I partnered with actor and ocean activist Ted Danson to write a Huffington Post editorial about this issue, and I’d like to share it with you in the hope that you’ll pass it along to your family and friends.

Conservation Needs Strong International Trade Laws
By Ted Danson & Andrew Sharpless
Last month, 24 leading conservation organizations banded together to write to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Signatories included the presidents and chief executive officers of environmental nonprofits, including Oceana, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, and the National Audubon Society, among others.
Our message to Ambassador Froman was simple: international trade agreements like the TPP must protect the environment and specifically limit harmful fisheries subsidies.
The TPP is tasked with creating an Asia-Pacific trade agreement between prominent countries in the region, including: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The agreement as a whole will address trade between participants. But because seafood is a significant part of trade between these countries, the TPP is also a crucial opportunity to address the significant problem of fisheries depletion in the Pacific.
The Pacific is the world’s largest ocean, spanning one-third of our planet’s surface and covering more area than all of Earth’s land combined. With such an immense resource, it’s no surprise that TPP countries make up more than a third of the global catch of seafood. It’s also no surprise that Pacific fisheries are dangerously overexploited.
The TPP negotiations are a critical opportunity to address one of the main drivers of overfishing—fisheries subsidies. Governments give their fishing fleets large amounts of money to help them fish longer, harder, and farther away. Overfishing subsidies total an estimated $16 billion annually, according to a 2010 study in Bioeconomics. Curbing these subsidies is one of the most powerful tools available to stop overfishing and reduce trade distortion in marine products. The global fishing fleet is now far larger than what we need to fish at sustainable levels. We’re taking far too many fish from the sea, jeopardizing marine ecosystems and our ability to feed future generations.
Subsidies also aid illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, which result in a loss of between 13 and 31 percent of global catch each year. This pirate catch is never recorded, undermining our efforts to set sustainable fishing quotes. It also harms communities in developing nations that rely upon fish for their food and livelihoods.

Our letter to Ambassador Froman also addresses land-based conservation concerns, especially illegal logging and the illegal wildlife trade, which also threaten to decimate our world’s irreplaceable biodiversity. It is essential that the TPP include prohibitions on trade in products and timber that are harvested or exported in ways that violate national law.   

The United States is a world leader in ocean conservation and fisheries reform. The ongoing TPP negotiations are an irreplaceable opportunity for us to enact sweeping, trans-oceanic change. We hope Ambassador Froman agrees, and will aid us in our efforts to protect the world’s oceans.


For the oceans
Andy Sharpless
Chief Executive Officer