New WTO Fisheries Subsidies Document Creates Path for Negotiations
Fishery Depletion and Food Crisis Increases Urgency for WTO Action to Reduce Overfishing Subsidies
Press Release Date: May 28, 2008
The World Trade Organization (WTO) today issued a new working document by Rules Negotiating Group Chairman Guillermo Valles Galmes. The document covers all areas of the Rules group negotiations, which includes fisheries subsidies, general subsidies and anti-dumping. The document provides a description of the views and proposals of WTO members related to the Rules text that was presented by Chairman Valles in November 2007.
Courtney Sakai, senior campaign director at Oceana, issued the following statement in response to the fisheries subsidies section of the new Rules document:
The fisheries subsidies negotiations are an important component of the Doha Round and have the potential to deliver tremendous economic and conservation benefits. A strong fisheries subsidies agreement is not only achievable but will send an important message to the world about the ability of trading nations to address environmental issues.
The future of the world’s fishery resources are at stake in the Doha Round. The economic hardship that fishing communities everywhere are now facing as a result of systematic overfishing make WTO action to control destructive fisheries subsidies even more urgent. The new Rules document makes it clear that there are important areas in the fisheries subsidies negotiations where there are differences among Members. The document should motivate WTO members to focus on the continuation of the negotiations and the areas where work is needed to reach agreement on strengthened rules for fisheries subsidies. The world depends upon healthy fishery resources and this can only be achieved if subsidies are substantially reduced. All WTO members, regardless of their size and status, have a responsibility to work towards achieving this common goal.
Earlier this week, Oceana released a new report that found more than 80 percent of the world’s fisheries cannot withstand increased fishing activity and only 17 percent should be considered capable of any growth at all. The report asserts that there are no hidden reserves of fish. Instead, in order to ensure an abundant fish supply and healthy resource, fishery management must be improved and the economic pressures that lead to overfishing, particularly subsidies, must be reduced.
Also this week, nearly 70 ocean and fishery scientists from 16 countries called upon the WTO to stop overfishing subsidies in new outdoor advertisements throughout Geneva.
More than a billion people worldwide depend on fish as a key source of protein. Fishing activities support hundreds of millions of people who depend on fishing for all or part of their income. Global fisheries subsidies are estimated to be at least $20 billion annually, an amount equivalent to approximately 25 percent of the value of the world catch. The scope and magnitude of these subsidies is so great that reducing them is the single greatest action that can be taken to protect the world’s oceans.
For more information about fisheries subsidies and Oceana’s Cut the Bait campaign, please visit http://www.cutthebait.org/.