WWF applauds the strong language in a long-awaited report that a key World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiating body released Friday, which underscores the urgent need to halt government-subsidized overfishing.
“This WTO report is a stark wake up call for anyone who cares about the future of our oceans and our fishing communities,” said WWF Senior Fellow David Schorr. “Governments have the power to stop using taxpayer money to promote fisheries depletion, so they need to act now to enact strong WTO rules to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies.”
The report, issued by the Chair of the WTO’s Negotiating Group on Rules, Ambassador Dennis Francis of Trinidad and Tobago, calls the dramatic decline in fisheries stocks “a crisis of exceptionally serious implications for all humankind”. The report notes broad agreement that “subsidies play a major role” in contributing to the problem, and reflects “nearly universal calls” for WTO action to eliminate inappropriate fisheries subsidies in an effective way.
“The Chair’s report clearly leaves the door open to strong WTO rules on fisheries subsidies,” added Schorr. “Particularly in light of the deepening uncertainty over the conclusion of the Doha Round, the report signals the continuing urgency of the environmental mandate underlying the fisheries subsidies talks.”
WWF further praised the important role played in recent weeks by the informal WTO coalition, “Friends of Fish” governments, who have held out for serious WTO fisheries subsidies rules. With consistent leadership from New Zealand and the United States—along with Argentina, Australia, Chile, Iceland, and Norway—the Friends of Fish coalition issued a strong statement on April 1 warning that the credibility of the WTO on environmental issues is at stake.
“While a handful of other governments continue to push for weaker rules, the Friends of Fish have been true to their name in keeping sight of the real stakes for the environment and for the quality of the WTO’s global leadership on trade,” said Schorr.
“The Doha Round may be struggling, but the need for effective disciplines on fisheries subsidies remains clear,” he added. “The Chair’s report reveals how far we have come since the start of these negotiations. Most countries support strong WTO rules to end subsidies that drive overfishing, and they have agreed on a basic framework for doing so. The WTO must not retreat from this historic opportunity to show how innovative trade rules can produce important benefits for the environment, and especially for human communities whose lives depend on the health of our oceans.”