AIDA celebrates WTO agreement to curb harmful fisheries subsidies
Foto: Annie Sprattn en Unsplash.
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17 June 2022
We consider the agreement a "crucial step" for the sustainability of fishery resources in the short, medium and long term, as well as for ensuring food security and the livelihoods of coastal communities.
Geneva, Switzerland. As an environmental organization that has closely followed the negotiations to limit global fisheries subsidies, the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) applauds that member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) reached, after more than two decades, a binding agreement to curb some harmful fisheries subsidies. It represents a fundamental step toward achieving the effective management of our fisheries resources, as well as toward ensuring global food security and the livelihoods of coastal communities.
"This is a crucial step towards ensuring the sustainability of fishery resources in the short, medium and long term," said Gladys Martinez de Lemos, executive director of AIDA. "We urge the 164 member countries of the WTO to ratify the agreement as soon as possible, and to implement the necessary changes derived from it to contribute significantly to the health of marine life and the well-being of those who depend on it."
It is estimated that, each year, governments spend approximately $22 billion in negative subsidies to offset costs for fuel, fishing gear and vessel improvements, among others.
As a result of that support, 63 percent of fish stocks worldwide must be rebuilt and 34 percent are fished at "biologically unsustainable" levels, according to recent data.
The agreement reached at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, held June 12-16, provides for the creation of a global framework to reduce subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; subsidies for fishing overexploited stocks; and subsidies for vessels fishing on the unregulated high seas.
The high seas fishing provisions represent an achievement for Latin America, a region whose fishing industry is severely threatened by aggressive foreign fleets fishing inside and outside of national jurisdictions.
The agreement also includes measures aimed at greater transparency and accountability in the way governments support their fisheries sector.
The countries agreed to continue negotiating rules to curb subsidies that promote fishing in other countries' waters, overfishing and the overcapacity of a fleet to catch more fish than is sustainable.
"This agreement is one part of the movement we need at the international level to contribute to the health of the ocean," explained Magie Rodríguez, AIDA attorney. "We have three more to go: the high seas treaty, more ambitious and rigorous standards for ocean mining, and recognition of the key role the ocean plays in the climate crisis. We will continue to work with our allies to achieve these goals.”
Although negotiations on fisheries subsidies officially began in 2001, it was not until the 2017 WTO Ministerial Conference that countries committed to taking action to reach an agreement at the next conference—which was to take place in December 2020, but was suspended due to the pandemic. This commitment also responds to the fulfillment of target 14.6 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
In 2021, the Ministerial Conference failed to reach an agreement, but it did reach a draft text.
"This year's achievement would not have been possible without the joint efforts of many different organizations, academia, governments and the private sector," said Martinez.