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WTO secures deal to end harmful fisheries subsidies

by Business News Report

World Economic Forum has said that “Members of the World Trade Organization meeting have secured a historic deal to end harmful fisheries subsidies, after 21 years of negotiations. Ending these perverse subsidies that boost overfishing is a critical step to enabling sustainable global fisheries, supporting small-scale fishers, and maintaining the health of fish stocks and the wider marine ecosystem. It is a key target in the Sustainable Development Goal for the ocean, SDG14. Friends of Ocean Action looks forward to marking this success at the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon in a few days, and urges countries to move swiftly to entry into force. I applaud WTO members for reaching this agreement – and also WTO Director General Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and chair of the fisheries negotiations Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, for their tireless efforts to usher in a deal that works for fisheries, fishers and fish. This is a good day for ocean health and the future of our planet. ”Kristian Teleki, Director of Friends of Ocean Action, World Economic Forum

A statement by the World Economic Forum said “at the close of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Geneva this morning, Friends of Ocean Action is calling on countries planning to attend the High-Level UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, on 27 June to 1 July, to commit to fast-tracking the entry into force of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies now adopted by the WTO. With this Agreement, the WTO is fulfilling its mandate in the Sustainable Development Goal for the ocean (SDG14 Target 6), but it requires two thirds of WTO membership (at least 109 countries) to ratify the agreement for it to enter into force. 

“This agreement to end harmful fisheries subsidies has been over twenty years in the making, and we applaud the WTO, its Director General and its members for reaching a meaningful deal. But ocean life cannot wait another twenty years for the agreement to enter into force. I call upon all WTO members to fast-track their ratification process so that this deal comes into force at the latest by the next WTO Ministerial Conference in two years,” said Ambassador Peter Thomson, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean and Co-Chair of Friends of Ocean Action. The new Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies agreed by WTO members today sets out specific commitments to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies. These include the following: WTO members cannot grant or maintain subsidies to ships and operators engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities (Article 3); WTO members cannot grant or maintain subsidies for fishing or fishing related activities regarding an overfished stock (Art 4); 

“WTO members shall not grant or maintain subsidies for fishing or fishing related activities in the high seas outside the competence of a relevant Regional Fisheries Management Organization, and take special care and due restraint when considering granting a subsidy concerning fish stocks whose status is unknown (Art 5); and WTO members shall strengthen and enhance transparency and notification of fisheries subsidies (Art 8), and a WTO Committee on Fisheries will be created and meet at least twice a year to review and improve implementation of the Agreement (Art 9). The Agreement also establishes (Art 7) a voluntary WTO funding mechanism to provide technical assistance and capacity-building to developing countries. Friends of Ocean Action urges developed countries to increase their financial contributions to this fund, to help protect the livelihoods of small-scale artisanal fishers and vulnerable coastal communities.

“Harmful fisheries subsidies have been estimated to amount to over USD 22 billion per year, over 80% of which benefits large scale industrial fleets, thus depriving small-scale fishers of access to resources and markets. “Today’s deal is a historic step forward for ocean health, and also the ability of fisherfolk in small-scale coastal communities around the world to have fairer access to their rightful resource, thereby boosting both food and job security. Meanwhile, the money spared in future with the elimination of these harmful subsidies should be channelled toward ocean conservation and sustainable adaptation assistance to coastal communities.,” said Ambassador Thomson.

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