Cobie Smulders Calls for Ending Fisheries Subsidies in the Pacific | Oceana
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January 24, 2014

Cobie Smulders Calls for Ending Fisheries Subsidies in the Pacific


People don’t often think of international trade laws when they think of ocean conservation. But international trade agreements, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, are immensely important for ending harmful practices like overfishing.

Today, Oceana’s VP for Chile, Alex Muñoz, partnered with Canadian actress Cobie Smulders write an editorial for the Huffington Post about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership is an important conservation opportunity. They urge their countries, and others in the TPP, to protect the oceans by ending harmful fisheries subsidies. We’d like to share their editorial with you, and we hope you’ll pass it on to others.

Restoring the Pacific Through International Trade Laws
By Cobie Smulders and Alex Muñoz
The Pacific Ocean is one of the world’s greatest resources. Occupying one-third of our planet’s surface and more area than all of the land combined, it harbors a wealth of food and energy that many nations rely on for economic security, including our home nations of Canada and Chile. But this valuable resource is in dire need of protection.

Twelve Pacific countries are currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement that will govern and guide international trade. Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam each have a seat at the table for one obvious reason — they border, and rely upon, the Pacific Ocean. The TPP negotiations are an unprecedented opportunity for these nations to safeguard ocean resources — and we need them to take action now.

The Pacific is a communal resource, but all is not well in the ocean. TPP countries make up more than a third of the global catch of seafood, but their oceans are seriously overfished. We can take a huge step towards addressing this issue with one step — ending harmful fisheries subsidies.

Fisheries subsidies are a key driver of overfishing in the Pacific. Government funding allows massive fishing fleets to search the farthest reaches of the Pacific for more and more fish. Overfishing subsidies add up to an estimated $16 billion annually, according to a 2010 study in Bioeconomics. Flush with government cash, the Pacific (and global) fishing fleet is far larger than what we actually need to fish sustainably.

Taking too many fish from the sea threatens our ability to feed future generations. The world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, and we will need to produce 70 percent more food to feed the world, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Seafood will be critical to meeting this demand, so it’s essential that we defend this resource now. If we fish sustainably, we could have enough seafood to feed more than a billion people a healthy seafood meal each day.

Fisheries subsidies are not the only issue that the TPP should address. Unchecked deforestation and the illegal wildlife trade are set to devastate the unique, land-based ecosystem in many Pacific countries. Scientists estimate that humans are driving current rates of extinction far higher than normal. We’re losing biodiversity, and we’re losing it fast. The TPP must also include bans on trade in products and timber that are harvested or exported in ways that violate national law.

Recently, Oceana joined 24 prominent conservation organizations to urge U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to push for fisheries reform and other critical conservation issues during TPP negotiations. But the oceans are a communal resource, and we need other participating nations to join us in our efforts to safeguard our ocean resources. The TPP negotiations offer a rare chance to address fisheries subsidies, and we hope that other countries, including our own, will join efforts to protect the oceans.