The World Trade Organization (WTO) today took an important step towards protecting the world's oceans in the issuance of "Chairman's text" on fisheries subsidies. "A strong fisheries subsidies agreement would be a hands-down win for the environment. The WTO faces challenges in tackling the issues of subsidies and overfishing, but the potential benefits are enormous," said Courtney Sakai, campaign director at Oceana. "If the Doha round fails, the oceans will be the big losers." Fisheries subsidies are part of the Negotiating Group on Rules. The fisheries subsidies language was released by negotiation chairman Guillermo Valles of Uruguay as part of a larger text for the Rules Group, which also includes dumping, general subsidies, and regional trade agreements. The Chairman's text forms the basis and framework for legal and technical negotiations and is scheduled to be discussed for the first time in Geneva on December 12-14.
"Now the real negotiations begin. The question is, will the WTO will seize or squander its opportunity to stop global overfishing," continued Sakai. "Reducing overfishing subsidies now is essential for abundant fisheries in the future."
Eliminating subsidies that enhance fishing capacity is the greatest single action that can be taken to protect the world's oceans. The WTO is the appropriate and best entity to address the fisheries subsidies problem on a global scale. The WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations are historic in that they represent the first time that conservation concerns -- overfishing and declining fishery resources - have led to the launch of a specific trade negotiation.
Subsidies promote overfishing, pushing fleets to fish longer, harder, and farther away than otherwise would be possible. These 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 UN Food and Agriculture Organization,75 percent of the world's fisheries are now overexploited, fully exploited, significantly depleted or recovering from overexploitation. A recent study by leading fishery scientists, published in the journal Science, concluded that the 29 percent of the world's fisheries are in collapse and projected if current overfishing trends continue all commercial fish populations will be beyond recovery within decades.
For more information, please also visit www.cutthebait.org/.-30-Oceana campaigns to protect and restore the world's oceans. Our teams of marine scientists, economists, lawyers and advocates win specific and concrete policy changes to reduce pollution and to prevent the irreversible collapse of fish populations, marine mammals and other sea life. Global in scope and dedicated to conservation, Oceana has campaigners based in North America (Washington, DC; Juneau, AK; Los Angeles, CA), Europe (Madrid, Spain; Brussels, Belgium) and South America (Santiago, Chile). More than 300,000 members and e-activists in over 150 countries have already joined Oceana.