The ocean is a major contributor to the global economy and billions of people depend on fish for their food security. However, many fisheries are already stretched past sustainable limits and subsidies that contribute to depleting fish stocks are simply unacceptable.
Many organizations, including WWF and Oceana have worked for many years to end subsidies that drive overcapacity and hinder sustainable marine management. But experts estimate that fishing subsidies of US$15-35 billion are still used each year in the fisheries sector (up to about a third of the total value of global fisheries) in spite of their negative impacts on resource sustainability.
There is a clear and compelling opportunity for the WTO to improve trade rules to address harmful fisheries subsidies – and help stop and reverse global overfishing. Building on discussions within the WTO dating back to 1998, and on the mandates issued by ministers at the Doha and Hong Kong Ministerial Conferences, as well as the recent UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, governments have the chance to take leadership to reform fisheries subsidies here and now.
We have no time to waste if we want to put the world’s fisheries back on a path to environmental and economic health. Given the scale of the sector, healthy and abundant fisheries are critical to food security and livelihoods worldwide – and WTO action on fisheries subsidies is an essential part of the solution. Reforming fisheries subsidies is one of the most obvious of many examples where international trade and 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda coincide. The WTO has a historic opportunity to show the world that it can make a meaningful contribution to solving problems of global consequence and thus clearly align with the Sustainable Development Goals adopted this year.