Oceana released a new report, Healthier Oceans, Healthier Economies, today that shows how the World Trade Organization (WTO) is in a key position to help ensure the long-term viability of the world's fisheries. The report, produced in conjunction with the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), establishes the need and urgency for the WTO to produce a successful agreement in its ongoing fisheries subsidies negotiations.
Today's release coincides with the beginning of a week long meeting of the WTO Negotiating Group on Rules, which includes the fisheries subsidies negotiations. This is the first time that the Rules Group has met since the unsuccessful WTO mini-ministerial meeting in July 2008. The Doha round has moved slowly since then, partially due to elections in some key WTO member countries.
"The Obama Administration has an opportunity to achieve major environmental protections for the oceans in the Doha round," said Courtney Sakai, senior campaign director at Oceana. "The Obama Administration can bring a renewed sense of urgency to the Doha round. Without fast action in the Doha round, effective limits on subsidies might come too late to reverse the drastic declines we are seeing in the world's fish populations."
Healthier Oceans, Healthier Economies asserts that a successful fisheries subsidies agreement must include strong limits on capacity-enhancing subsidies such as those for fuel. The report also recognizes the importance of fisheries to developing countries for economic growth, poverty reduction and food security, but stresses that fisheries expansion must be managed and sustainable.
"Development and sustainability are not tradeoffs," said Sakai. "The days of vast and unlimited fisheries are over and if history continues to repeat itself the world's commercial fish populations could soon be gone. By limiting subsidies and improving fisheries management we can help end the boom-and-bust cycle of fisheries exploitation and collapse."
Healthier Oceans, Healthier Economies references recent research showing that subsidies create perverse incentives for continued fishing in the face of declining catches. The result is overfishing, fleet overcapitalization, reduced economic efficiency of the sector and the failure to obtain potential economic benefits from the resource.
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than 75 percent of the world's fisheries are currently overexploited, fully exploited, significantly depleted or recovering from overexploitation. Subsidies promote overfishing, pushing fleets to fish longer, harder and farther away than would otherwise be possible. 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.
For more information about Oceana's campaign to stop overfishing subsidies, please visit http://www.cutthebait.org/.