Members of the World Trade Organization are negotiating an agreement that could end harmful fisheries subsidies. Reaching a deal in December 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 harmful, capacity-enhancing 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 180 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 immediately to end harmful subsidies. The organization has a mandate to regulate subsidies and can create legally binding rules to do so.
In 2015, 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.”
That deadline has passed—and this agreement is overdue. It’s time for nations to reach a consensus on a sustainability-focused WTO deal and honor the commitment they made.