World’s Leading Marine Scientists Call on WTO Ministers to Stop Overfishing Subsidies - Oceana USA

World’s Leading Marine Scientists Call on WTO Ministers to Stop Overfishing Subsidies

Scientists Say WTO Deal on Fish Needed to Preserve Food Security, Jobs; $50 Billion Lost Annually from Overfishing

Press Release Date: December 1, 2009

Location: Geneva, Switzerland,


Dustin Cranor, APR | email: | tel: 954.348.1314


As World Trade Organization (WTO) ministers meet today in Geneva, Switzerland, to review WTO activities, including the Doha work program, nine leading marine scientists called on them to combat global overfishing by controlling government subsidies to their fishing sectors.

In a letter to WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy on the second day of the Seventh Ministerial Conference, the scientists asserted that “the WTO has an unprecedented opportunity to make new trade rules that will turn the tide for the world’s fisheries.” The scientists recognized the relevance of trade and the WTO to the environment and urged the Director-General to “continue to use your leadership to achieve a successful outcome in the fisheries subsidies negotiations and demonstrate to the world that the WTO can play a constructive role in solving problems of global consequence.”

The scientists referenced data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), showing that global fishery resources have been depleted by an additional five percent since the Doha trade round started. The FAO now finds that 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are overexploited, fully exploited, significantly depleted or recovering from overexploitation. The scientists also pointed to a recent World Bank study that found an estimated $50 billion is lost globally each year – equivalent to more than half the value of the global catch – because of poor fisheries governance and overexploitation.

The scientists indicated that a WTO deal on fisheries subsidies is essential. “The health of the world’s oceans is currently hanging in the balance. Climate change, ocean acidification, and overfishing are putting tremendous strains on the oceans, and threaten the viability of ecosystems that have provided food, jobs, and much more to humanity for millennia. The inevitable consequences of climate change make it essential that the nations of the world act immediately to reduce other impacts on the ocean, including, perhaps most importantly, overfishing,” they wrote.

Oceana also recognized the relevance of this week’s Ministerial meeting, themed The WTO, the Multilateral Trading System and the Current Global Economic Environment, to marine conservation. “The global economic environment is enhanced by a healthy natural environment,” said Courtney Sakai, senior campaign director at Oceana. “The multilateral trading system can produce one of the greatest contributions towards protecting the oceans by reducing fisheries subsidies.”


About Fisheries Subsidies:

The WTO is engaged in a dedicated negotiation on fisheries subsidies as part of the Doha trade round. 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 fish catch. These subsidies are driving the rampant overcapacity and overfishing that threatens the viability of an essential nutrition source and the ecosystems that cover more than two-thirds of the planet. In addition, more than a billion people worldwide depend on fish as a key source of protein and hundreds of millions, in both developed and developing countries, depend on fishing for income.


About Oceana:

Oceana is an international organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of marine resources. Oceana serves as a formal advisor to the United States government on trade and environment policy and chairs a dedicated task force on fisheries. Oceana is participating in the Ministerial Conference as an official observer and as part of the Untied States delegation.


For more information about global fisheries subsidies, please visit


To learn more about Oceana’s campaign to stop overfishing subsidies, please visit