Global Deal helps reduce overfishing and improve ocean health

When the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) closed at dawn on 17 June 2022, the 164-member intergovernmental body announced its final decision after 21 years of on-and-off discussions and negotiations. adopted the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement.

The WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies is a historic step towards tackling one of the main drivers of overfishing in the world’s oceans. Countries pay harmful subsidies to commercial fishermen to keep their businesses profitable.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, one-third of the world’s fish stocks are being exploited beyond sustainable levels. $22 billion in annual government subsidies are driving this overfishing. Funds will go primarily to industrial fishing fleets, artificially lowering fuel and ship construction costs. These subsidies allow larger vessels to fish in farther waters for longer periods of time, essentially increasing the capacity of each vessel and thus catching more fish than is sustainable. I can. Many of these industrial fleets cannot be profitable without government support.

Under the new WTO agreements, countries should consider the current state of fish stocks when granting subsidies. This should help curb overfishing, improve ocean health and protect coastal livelihoods. The deal is the first multilateral agreement achieved by the WTO to link trade and the environment, limiting subsidies to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) and overfishing stocks, as well as subsidies to ships. Create a global, legally binding framework. Fishing in unregulated high seas. From now on, 109 Member States will have to ratify the agreement for it to come into force.

The agreement also includes measures to increase transparency and accountability regarding how governments support the fishing sector. For the first time, 164 governments around the world will be required to follow the same rules and consider resource sustainability when designing fisheries subsidy programs.

In 2001, the United Nations, recognizing the negative impact some fisheries subsidies had on the world’s oceans, initiated discussions to address these payments. In 2015, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals tasked the WTO with reaching an agreement by 2020 to ban certain forms of harmful fisheries subsidies. Persistent, he eventually reached an agreement adopted in June.

As part of the agreement, the Commerce Minister also pledged to continue negotiations on several outstanding issues related to overfishing and overcapacity. Future negotiations, scheduled for this fall, will focus on how best to help developing countries meet the requirements of the deal.

WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

World Oceans Day 2022 event in Geneva, Switzerland, WTO Director-General Ngozio Okonjoyweala (left) with Marco Lambertini, World Wildlife Fund International Director-General, and Pugh Principal Associate Talking to Reyna Gilbert and urging WTO member states to end harmful fishing. Subsidy.

stop funding overfishing

The Pew Charitable Trust’s Harmful Fisheries Subsidies Reduction Team has assisted WTO members in their efforts to comply with the negotiating mandates set at the 11th Ministerial Conference in 2017. Certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing. For example, Pew facilitated groundbreaking research to ensure that policy makers have up-to-date research on this topic. This includes global estimates of how much governments spend each year on harmful fisheries subsidies, and bioeconomic models that estimate how much fish populations will decline. An interactive tool to visualize the rebound if all harmful subsidies were removed and the magnitude (and spatial distribution) of subsidies supporting deep sea fisheries.

Santiago Wills

Colombia’s Permanent Ambassador to the WTO, Santiago Wills, speaks to the media at World Oceans Day 2022 in Geneva. Wills chaired his WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations, helping members navigate the path to final agreements.

stop funding overfishing

Another important element of Pugh’s work was to amplify stakeholder voices in favor of agreements to curb harmful fisheries subsidies. Since 2020, the Stopfunding Overfishing Coalition of 182 non-governmental organizations around the world, including Pew, has repeatedly called on world leaders to fulfill the mandate of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

WTO members should promote the ratification, implementation and strengthening of new agreements. Pugh will continue to be involved in this effort. But it’s also the right time for him to celebrate the June deal, which is an important step in the fight against overfishing.

Ernesto Fernández Monge is working on a project to reduce subsidies to harmful fishing for the Pew Charitable Trusts, and Megan Jungwiwattanaporn is working on a cross-campaign effort within Pew’s conservation efforts.

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