The WTO Must End Harmful Fisheries Subsidies by 2020 Deadline

The cost of inaction is too high

The WTO Must End Fisheries Subsidies by 2020
Getty Images

Members of the World Trade Organization are negotiating an agreement to reduce harmful fisheries subsidies. Reaching a deal this year would be one of the most important actions that global leaders can take to improve the ocean’s fish stocks—and the jobs, economies, and communities that depend on them.

Governments spend more than $22 billion on capacity-enhancing—or harmful—subsidies, such as money for fuel and vessel construction. These subsidies allow vessels to travel farther, stay at sea longer, and take in more fish than they could normally afford to.

More than 160 leading environmental organizations have signed on in support of ending these unsustainable funding practices. Now it is the WTO’s turn to act. Its member countries are in a unique position to reach a deal to end harmful subsidies right now. The organization has a mandate to regulate subsidies and can create legally binding rules to do so.

Five years ago, global leaders committed to negotiating and adopting a WTO agreement by the end of 2020 to “prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing and eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.”

With the deadline fast approaching, it’s time for nations to reach a consensus and honor the commitment they made.


The front facade of the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, DC.

Agenda for America

Resources for federal, state, and local decision-makers

Quick View

Data-driven policymaking is not just a tool for finding new solutions for emerging challenges, it makes government more effective and better able to serve the public interest.


States of Innovation

Data-driven state policy innovations across America

Quick View

Data-driven policymaking is not just a tool for finding new solutions for difficult challenges. When states serve their traditional role as laboratories of innovation, they increase the American people’s confidence that the government they choose—no matter the size—can be effective, responsive, and in the public interest.