Oceana experts described the urgency for fisheries subsidies reform at the 2008 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona yesterday. The event, Fishing for Sustainability: Maintaining Momentum for Fisheries Subsidies Reform, was co-sponsored by Oceana and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD).
"Subsidies threaten the future of the world's fishery resource and the livelihood of millions of people who depend on it," said Courtney Sakai, senior campaign director at Oceana. "Time is running out for the world's fisheries and to stop the massive subsidies that fuel global overfishing."
Fisheries 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. 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.
During yesterday's event, Oceana specifically addressed European subsidies and their impact on Europe's fish populations. "The overexploitation of bluefin tuna has been promoted and financed by European taxpayers and continues through the subsidization of operating costs, such as fuel," said Anne Schroeer, economist at Oceana. "This is one of the clearest examples of how the subsidy system has led to the decline of fisheries resources and overcapacity of the European Union fleet."
The event also highlighted the opportunity to address global fisheries subsidies through improved trade measures. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is currently negotiating new rules on fisheries subsidies as part of its Doha trade round. These negotiations represent the first time that conservation concerns, in addition to commerce priorities, have led to the launch of a specific trade negotiation. The Doha round provides the best opportunity to address overcapacity and overfishing on a global scale.
About the IUCN World Conservation Congress:
The IUCN World Conservation Congress brings together more than 8,000 of the world's leading decision makers in sustainable development from governments, NGOs, businesses, the United Nations and academia. The event is hosted every four years and focuses on ideas, actions and solutions for a diverse and sustainable world.