Oceana experts described the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a vehicle for addressing global overfishing at the 5th World Fisheries Congress in Yokohama today. The presentation, The World Trade Organization and Fisheries Subsidies: Using trade rules to reverse overfishing and promote sustainable fishing worldwide, provided insight into the ongoing WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations and described Oceana's work, which resulted in proposed WTO rules that would provide significant conservation and management benefits.
"A key solution for addressing global overfishing is not found through traditional fisheries management, but through trade," said Courtney Sakai, senior campaign director at Oceana. "The international science community has identified reducing subsidies as one of the most significant actions to combat global overfishing. The WTO negotiations provide the best opportunity to stop overfishing subsidies."
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. Earlier this month, the The World Bank and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a new report, finding that the marine industry loses up to $50 billion annually because of poor management and overfishing. It also concluded that economics justifies the universal elimination of fisheries subsidies.
Oceana also released a new report, Too Few Fish: A Regional Assessment of the World's Fisheries, in May. Based on data from the FAO, the report found that more than 80 percent of the world's fisheries are unable to withstand increased fishing activity, leaving only 17 percent considered capable of any growth in catch at all. "Countries must decrease the political and economic pressures that lead to overfishing if we want healthy and abundant fishery resources," said Sakai.
The WTO is currently engaged in a dedicated negotiation on fisheries subsidies as part of its Doha trade round. The fisheries subsidies negotiations represent the first time that conservation concerns, in addition to commerce priorities, have led to the launch of a specific trade negotiation.
About the 5th World Fisheries Congress:
The 5th World Fisheries Congress is hosted by the Japanese Society of Fisheries Sciences, the Science Council of Japan and the Fisheries Research Agency. The World Fisheries Congress is hosted every four years and is an official meeting of the World Council of Fisheries Societies, providing a meeting ground for the world's top scientists. This year's Congress is focused on current global aquatic issues and sustainable fisheries, and will contribute to the resolution of important issues that are threatening both human beings and aquatic organisms.