WTO Fisheries Negotiations: Failure Is Not An Option

Date: June 25, 2019

Source: IISD / SDG Knowledge Hub

Author: Remi Parmentier, The Varda Group

Roberto Azevêdo, Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), recently went on record about the importance of completing by year-end the WTO negotiations for the elimination of fisheries subsidies that contribute to illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, overfishing and the overcapacity of fishing fleets and infrastructures. I could not agree with him more.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), 33% of the world’s fish populations are overfished, 60% are being fished to their sustainable limit, and there is a margin for growth in catches of only 7% of the entire world’s fish populations (the so-called “underfished stocks”). And fisheries subsidies are considered to be the main driver of overfishing. For example, economists have shown that some fisheries in the high seas (the area beyond the 200-mile national jurisdiction) simply would not be economically feasible in the absence of government support, given the high fuel costs for long distance travel.

This has led to the ludicrous situation that consumers in many countries are paying double for their fish: first to the taxman, and again to the fishmonger. The environment is paying doubly as well: the unsustainable burning of fossil fuels by too many vessels chasing too few fish, and the unfortunate depletion of fish stocks.

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