WWF welcomes fishing nations' action on subsidies | WWF

WWF welcomes fishing nations' action on subsidies

Posted on
30 July 1999
Gland, Switzerland - WWF, the conservation organization, welcomes the call today by a coalition of the world's top fishing nations to put fisheries subsidies squarely on the agenda of trade talks due to be launched by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle later this year. The move came amid unexpectedly strong momentum in favour of fishery subsidies talks, and sharply raised the chances that the WTO will take action on the issue.

If fishing subsidies are included, it will be the first time that the WTO has taken the 'win win' agenda seriously. The agenda would benefit the environment, sustainable development and trade.

This call for action by some of the world's top fishing nations underscores the devastating impact fisheries subsidies are having on the marine environment, as well as on the fisheries trade worldwide, said David Schorr, head of WWF's Endangered Seas Campaign subsidies initiative. With 90 percent of the fishery subsidies now administered in violation of WTO rules requiring their disclosure, the need for action becomes even more evident.

Nations sponsoring the proposal include Australia, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, the Philippines, and the United States, which together are responsible for around 25% of the world's catch of marine fish. Argentina, Brazil, Canada and Chile have also said they favour the proposal.

While no member nation has ruled out support for the WTO to focus on this issue in the next round of trade talks, the European Union and Japan, both of which subsidize their fishing industries to the tune of more than 850 million US dollars per year, expressed reservations this week about the proposal. EU subsidies include around 250 million Euros (261 million US dollars) just for its fleet to have access to fish in the waters of developing countries, where there is little control and monitoring. In Argentina, a recent fishing agreement with the EU contributed to a 33% decrease in hake stock in just 2 years. As a result, the Argentinian government has had to ban all commercial fishing for hake.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that at least 60 percent of the world's 200 most valuable fish species are either overfished or fished to the limit. A WWF study found that current fishing capacity may be as much as two and a half times greater than what is considered sustainable.

The WTO has a significant role to play helping reduce the billions of dollars paid each year in subsidies that contribute to overfishing, added Mr. Schorr. But the WTO must not act alone. Integrating environment and trade in the win-win agenda will require integrating the process too. Only if negotiations are conducted in direct cooperation with the FAO and UNEP, as well as with the full participation of all stakeholders including conservationists and fishermen from developing countries, will we really see a sustainable outcome.

For further information:
David Schorr: tel: +1 202-778-9662
(available today from 12:30 pm, Geneva time)
Kyla Evans: tel: +41 22 364 95 50,
email: kevans@wwfnet.org