In a demonstration of regional unity, six Latin American countries issued a joint paper today in the World Trade Organization (WTO) fisheries subsidies negotiations. The paper supports a fisheries subsidies agreement as envisioned by the Chair's text, including a meaningful prohibition of fisheries subsidies and limited and conditioned flexibility for developing countries. The paper was spurred in part by recent proposals that would significantly carve out developing countries from rules on fisheries subsidies.
"The statement shows that strong measures to limit fisheries subsidies can be compatible with the social and economic objectives of developing countries," said Alex Munoz Wilson, vice president for South America at Oceana. "This paper demonstrates that some proposals by other developing countries do not reflect the views of all WTO Members."
Co-sponsors of the paper include Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru. The paper cites the common experience of the region, which has shown that any growth and expansion of fishing activity must be accompanied by measures to promote sustainability of the resource. The countries recognize the scientific information on the dire condition of marine resources and assert that flexibility for developing countries cannot be a "blank check." The countries further assert that the challenges that many developing countries face in implementing fisheries management measures cannot be an excuse for not demanding it.
"Latin America has a long history and tradition with fisheries," said Munoz. "The countries are right that the uncontrolled expansion and subsidization of fishing activity will only hasten the continued depletion and collapse of valuable fishery resources."
Reducing fisheries subsidies is one of the most significant actions that can be taken to address global overfishing. Global fisheries subsidies are estimated to be at least $20 billion annually, an amount equivalent to approximately 25 percent of the value of the world catch. The WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies represent the best opportunity to address this critical issue on a global scale.
The international scientific community has long recognized the importance of reducing fisheries subsidies. This month, scientists from 16 countries are urging the WTO to Stop Overfishing Subsidies on billboards throughout Geneva, Switzerland. Last year, 125 international scientists wrote Director-General Pascal Lamy urging him to use his leadership to help guide the WTO in meeting this global challenge.