Organizations Around the Globe Urge World Leaders to Reach a WTO Deal to Help Save Our Ocean

Updated September 30, 2020

This year, governments around the world must fulfil their commitment to curb the public money that supports overfishing and degrades our ocean. After nearly two decades of negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO), now is the moment for leaders to act to end harmful fisheries subsidies. organizations from around the world urge world leaders to reach a meaningful agreement to stop these harmful subsidies in 2020 as time has run out.

Despite the fact that a third of fish stocks are already exploited beyond sustainable levels1, governments continue to provide an estimated US$22billion every year in harmful subsidies that increase fishing capacity.2 While these subsidies may be aimed at helping coastal communities, they can instead encourage fishing beyond profitable and sustainable levels in coastal waters and on the high seas, degrading the very resources on which these communities depend and jeopardising the future of the industry they set out to support.

In 2015, world leaders recognized the damage that harmful subsidies cause to fish stocks and the marine environment when they adopted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. SDG Target 14.6 tasked governments with reaching a new agreement at the WTO to eliminate harmful subsidies by 2020. This deadline has mobilized the international community as 2020 is our last, best chance to achieve meaningful reform.

The final international agreement must trigger prompt and significant reductions by the largest subsidizers. Moreover, it must establish a binding framework that drives the phase out of all harmful subsidies that contribute to fleet overcapacity and overfishing, and eliminates subsidies to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by all WTO member governments. Countries at all stages of development should be prepared to improve the health of their fisheries and support the livelihoods of their fishers by reforming their fisheries subsidies programs once an agreement is reached. Anything less would miss this generational opportunity to replot the course of global fishing fleets toward sustainability, improve the health of ocean ecosystems, and help ensure that the ocean will continue to provide for the many millions who depend on it, now and into the future.

A deal is possible. We call upon world leaders to work swiftly to find landing zones in order to successfully deliver on the SDG mandate by the 2020 deadline. An agreement would demonstrate not only that WTO members can cooperate to deliver an outcome of global importance, but also that the SDGs represent a real pathway toward a better future.

Now is the time for action.


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A third of all fish stocks are exploited at unsustainable levels