A group of nearly 300 scientists urge the WTO to eliminate harmful subsidies on global fisheries

Fishing subsidies can contribute to overfishing. Photo: EcomarePam Lindeboom via Wikimedia Commons

Global fisheries makes an important contribution to the health and nutrition of millions of people. Unfortunately, in many cases, this industry is not carried out sustainably –more is taken out than regrows, fish are caught before they can reproduce, heavy fishing gears are destroying the seabed, more climate-damaging CO2 is released in the air than is necessary in order to attain high catches. This type of fishing is in fact, not profitable, for the cost is higher than the value of the catch. It is made possible by subsidies, i.e. financial contributions from national governments for fuel, boat building, fishing gears and other equipment and processes. The costs of fishing are thus reduced, and what are actually unprofitable fleets and harmful fishing methods are artificially kept alive by taxpayers’ money.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has been dealing with the question of how such harmful fisheries subsidies can be banned for a long period of time. A draft agreement is to be presented this year for the approval of the WTO members, including Germany and the EU, during their 12th Ministerial Conference that will be held in Geneva from November 30 to December 3, 2021. Stepping in this pivotal scenario is a group of nearly 300 scientists spanning 46 countries and 6 continents, who have joined forces to compose and sign an open letter –spearheaded by Dr. Rashid Sumaila, Canada Research Chair in Interdisciplinary Ocean and Fisheries Economics at IOF-UBC, compelling those responsible to take a bold step in eliminating these harmful subsidies for global fisheries for good.

“The WTO has been discussing this issue for two decades, now is the time to act. Financing overfishing and destructive fishing methods with taxpayers’ money must finally stop,” says Dr. Rainer Froese, one of the authors of the letter, co-creator of FishBase and senior scientist at GEOMAR.

We call on the heads of state of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement—who have already committed to eliminating harmful subsidies —as well as other trade blocs and individual countries, to declare their support now for an agreement that enshrines these recommendations. WTO members must harness their political mandate to protect the health of the ocean and the well-being of society.

 

Source: Rainer Froese, GEOMAR

 

About Joann Glorioso

Events Coordinator / Communications & Public Relations Officer

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