Oceana welcomed a very distinguished visitor yesterday. We hosted the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Pascal Lamy, along with representatives of 10 major U.S. environmental organizations in a roundtable discussion at our headquarters in Washington, D.C. The roundtable focused on promoting an open and active dialogue about trade and the environment and the WTO’s ability to address both.
The WTO is currently engaged in a dedicated negotiation on fisheries subsidies as part of the Doha Round. These negotiations are historic because they are the first time that conservation considerations, in addition to commerce priorities, have led to the launch of a specific trade negotiation.
Fishing subsidies promote overfishing by pushing fleets to fish longer, harder and farther away than would otherwise be economically feasible. Overfishing subsidies are estimated to be at least $20 billion annually, an amount equal to approximately 25 percent of the value of the world catch.
“We can no longer think about trade and the environment separately,” said Dr. Michael Hirshfield, senior vice president for North America and chief scientist at Oceana. “Trade can benefit the environment. In order to effectively help stop global overfishing, we must reduce harmful fisheries subsidies. The WTO presents the best opportunity to address fisheries subsidies on a global scale. A successful Doha Round deal must include fish. Time is running out and if Doha fails, the oceans lose.”
Lamy signaled that he agreed. “Trade and the environment can be mutually supportive,” he said. “We now have an opportunity to strengthen this link by delivering on the environment mandate of the Doha Round.”
We’ll be sure to keep you posted as we watch the ongoing WTO negotiations. In the meantime, learn more about Oceana’s campaign to reduce harmful fishing subsidies.