Environmental Leaders Call on President Obama to Halt Overfishing Subsidies - Oceana USA

Environmental Leaders Call on President Obama to Halt Overfishing Subsidies

Key Subcommittee Chair Encourages Agreement on WTO Fisheries Subsidies

Press Release Date: May 11, 2011

Location: Washington, DC


Dustin Cranor, APR | email: dcranor@oceana.org | tel: 954.348.1314


Today, Mission Blue, Oceana and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) delivered a letter to President Obama calling for renewed U.S. leadership at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to end subsidies that contribute to overfishing.

In the letter, 77 prominent environmental leaders and groups, including conservation organizations Oceana and WWF, marine scientists Dr. Sylvia Earle and Dr. Daniel Pauly, and celebrity activists Leonardo DiCaprio, Chevy Chase and Darryl Hannah wrote, “The United States has played a strong role across successive administrations, to achieve new rules for fisheries subsidies at the WTO. Recent developments at the WTO may threaten to derail years of progress towards a successful result. We urge you at this important juncture to send clear and public signals that a genuine ‘win’ on fisheries subsidies remains a critical priority for the United States at the WTO.”

Citing government subsidies as one of the most important causes of the worldwide crisis of overfishing, the letter’s signatories highlighted the urgency and importance of reaching an agreement in the ongoing negotiations at the WTO.

“Now is the time to demonstrate that the WTO is an institution capable of achieving major environmental improvements for the global community. We urge you and your administration to demand a strong and timely fisheries agreement in any deal produced from the Doha Round,” continued the letter.

Senator Wyden (D-OR), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, also supports a strong agreement in the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations and is hosting a Congressional briefing today to underscore the significance of the issue.

“Addressing harmful foreign subsidies that encourage overfishing should be a top priority for the United States. The fisheries subsidies negotiations are likely the best example of how the WTO can promote sustainable development. I encourage the Obama Administration to promote freer, fairer trade in seafood by supporting a strong outcome in the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations. The United States should seize this opportunity to create new jobs while improving the health of our oceans and the seafood caught there,” said Senator Wyden in a prepared statement.

Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Mark Linscott, Oceana chief scientist and senior vice president for North America Dr. Michael Hirshfield and WWF senior fellow David Schorr will also participate in the Congressional briefing with Senator Wyden.

Background Information

More than a billion people worldwide depend on fish as a key source of protein. Fishing activities support coastal communities and hundreds of millions of people who depend on fishing for all or part of their income.

But now, nearly all of the world’s fish populations in every part of the world are severely depleted from overfishing. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 85 percent of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited, overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion. This is the highest percentage since FAO began keeping records and is a 10 percent increase from four years ago.

Despite the precarious state of the oceans, many governments continue to provide significant subsidies that push their fleets to fish longer, harder, and farther away than otherwise would be possible. Destructive fisheries subsidies are estimated to be at least $16 billion annually, an amount equivalent to approximately 20 percent of the value of the world catch. The scope and effects of these “overfishing subsidies” are so significant that eliminating them is one of the most important and urgent actions that can be taken to protect the world’s oceans.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the 153-country organization responsible for negotiating the rules governing international trade and settling related disputes. In 2001, recognizing the relevance of subsidies to trade and the importance of a healthy fishery resource to commerce and development, the WTO initiated a dedicated negotiation on fisheries subsidies as part of its Doha trade agenda.

About Mission Blue

Mission Blue is network of organizations, individuals and governments working together to restore the health of the ocean. To help address this danger to people and nature, the National Geographic Society, Waitt Family Foundation, Sylvia Earle Alliance along with strategic government, private, scientific and conservation partners including the TEDPrize, Google and others, are building a broad spectrum of partners to form an action-oriented marine conservation initiative that will 1) inspire people to care and act 2) reduce the impact of fishing and 3) promote the creation of marine protected areas. This collaborative effort aims to promote the expansion of proven, replicable and scalable solutions as well as new, cutting-edge ideas from fisheries, policy makers, the seafood industry and local coastal communities. Learn more about the Mission Blue Foundation at www.mission-blue.org.

About Oceana

Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 500,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.

About World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

WWF is the world’s leading conservation organization, working in 100 countries for nearly half a century. With the support of almost 5 million members worldwide, WWF is dedicated to delivering science-based solutions to preserve the diversity and abundance of life on Earth, halt the degradation of the environment and combat climate change. Visit www.worldwildlife.org to learn more.