New WTO rules aim to end subsidies that drive overfishing | WWF

New WTO rules aim to end subsidies that drive overfishing

Posted on 12 December 2007
WWF welcomed the release in Geneva of draft World Trade Organization (WTO) rules aimed at ending subsidies that drive overfishing.  The long-awaited text, authored by the chair of the WTO Negotiating Group on Rules as part of the Doha Round negotiations, is the first formal draft of language aimed at fulfilling a pledge made by WTO members in 2005 to eliminate subsidies that contribute to overfishing.

“On first look, this is a serious and constructive text,” said WWF Senior Fellow David Schorr, “It clearly reflects the progress that has been achieved in these negotiations so far.  While there may be devils in the details or a few important gaps, it is a solid basis for negotiations to proceed. We applaud the thoughtful efforts of the chairman, Uruguayan Ambassador Guillermo Valles.”  

Fisheries are under severe stress in every ocean—more than three quarters of all fisheries are already overfished or fished up to their biological limits.  Yet governments continue to pour billions into supports that increase the size and power of fishing fleets and encourage excess fishing effort.  The WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations have been widely identified—including by heads of state at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development—as the most important opportunity to reverse these unsustainable practices.  

“This issue presents an unprecedented test of the WTO’s ability to guide globalization towards a sustainable future,” said Schorr.   “The ultimate proof will be in the final results of the talks.  WWF calls on governments to build on the chair’s text to achieve WTO rules that deliver real benefits for the world’s fisheries and the communities that depend on them.”  

The fisheries subsidies issue has been on the WTO agenda since the launch of the Doha Round in 2001.  Strong language to end harmful fisheries subsidies has been supported by a diverse group of countries including the United States, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.  The European Union and Japan—the two largest providers of fisheries subsidies—have resisted rules considered necessary by environmental groups.  WWF helped put the fisheries subsidies issue on the global agenda when WWF was the first to call for new WTO fisheries subsidies rules in 1998, and has worked closely with governments and other stakeholders to propose effective solutions.