A Big Step Toward Curbing Overfishing
With many experts citing overfishing as the greatest threat facing the ocean, members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have reached a binding agreement to curb some subsidies that enable industrial fleets to overfish.
Governments around the world spend $22 billion a year on such harmful fishing subsidies, which are paid primarily to owners and operators of large, industrial vessels to help offset fuel and ship construction costs. That in turn enables those fleets to fish farther from shore, stay out longer than they otherwise could, and catch fish at an unsustainable rate.
The WTO’s new agreement, which members agreed to in June, creates a global framework that limits a range of subsidies, including those for illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; fishing of stocks categorized as overfished; and vessels fishing in the unregulated high seas. The deal, which applies to all 164 WTO member governments, includes measures that will enhance transparency and accountability for how governments support their fishing sectors.
Pew had been pushing for an even stronger commitment to end all harmful fishing subsidies, in large part because one-third of all global fish populations are overfished and another 60% are being fished at maximally sustainable levels, according to a 2020 study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
The good news is that this damage is reversible: A bioeconomic model developed by the Environmental Markets Lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara, showed that the most ambitious subsidy reform the WTO was considering—one that removes all harmful subsidies—could have resulted in a 12.5% increase in fish biomass throughout the ocean by 2050. That would equate to up to an additional 35 million metric tons of fish in the sea, or almost four times the amount of North America’s fish consumption in 2017 (the most recent year for which reliable data is available).
Although the WTO didn’t go that far, the new agreement is an important step in the right direction. And governments agreed to continue negotiating to include additional rules on subsidies that contribute to fishing in other countries’ waters and to overcapacity—or a fleet’s ability to harvest more fish than is sustainable—within a nation’s own waters.
The June decision followed years of advocacy and groundwork by a broad spectrum of players, and the 2015 adoption by 193 countries of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. One of them—Goal 14—called for conserving and responsibly using ocean and marine resources. Under that aim, nations committed to effectively regulate fisheries, eliminate illegal fishing, and, by 2020, reach an agreement to prohibit the harmful fisheries subsidies that fund destructive fishing practices.
Although WTO members missed that deadline, they persisted, ultimately striking the deal at the WTO’s 12th ministerial conference in June.
WTO members must now bring the treaty into force swiftly, says Isabel Jarrett, who manages Pew’s reducing harmful fisheries subsidies project. She says it’s encouraging that members have committed to recommending further rules on subsidies at the next ministerial conference.
“Curbing harmful fishing subsidies can help reduce overfishing, restore the health of fisheries, and revitalize communities that rely on those fisheries,” Jarrett says. Those subsidies “have been a problem for decades, and this is a turning point in addressing one of the key drivers of global overfishing.”
News From Pew: Jones Becomes Board Chair
At its June meeting, The Pew Charitable Trusts’ board of directors selected Christopher Jones as its new chair to succeed Robert H. Campbell, who had completed his second term in the position.
Jones began his service on Pew’s board in 2016 after 24 years in the advertising industry, including tenure as worldwide chair and CEO of J. Walter Thompson Co., one of the world’s largest advertising groups.
Pew’s board includes approximately a dozen members at any given time and approves funding for the institution’s programmatic initiatives and helps set the strategic vision for the organization.
Campbell will continue to serve as a member of the board, which he joined in 2001, with previous tenures as chair from 2008-2014 and from 2016 until last June. “I’ve had the privilege of being part of the Pew board for more than two decades and am excited about the critical initiatives we will continue to take on in the coming months and years,” he said.
President and CEO Susan K. Urahn thanked Campbell for his leadership and guidance during his tenure as chair. “Importantly, we will continue to benefit from Bob’s expertise on the board,” she said.
“We’re also excited for Chris Jones’ tenure as chair given his critical insights and significant experience with boards and Pew’s work around the world,” she said. “As we approach our 75th anniversary in 2023, this is a terrific moment for the board, and all of our staff, to consider our path ahead with Chris as chair.”
A resident of the United Kingdom, Jones brings an international perspective to the board at a time when Pew’s international policy portfolio is growing. He also serves on several corporate and nonprofit boards in the U.S. and in England, and he spent a decade living and working in the United States during his tenure at J. Walter Thompson Co., which contributed to his deep interest in and knowledge of many aspects of Pew’s U.S.-based initiatives. Known for his sense of humor and his enthusiastic backing of Pew’s programmatic work, Jones was elected unanimously by his fellow board members.
“I’m honored to serve the Pew board as chair and value the contributions of all of my fellow board members and the staff members of the organization,” Jones said. “I look forward to advancing Pew’s efforts around the globe through the support of the board.”
Philadelphians Worry About Guns, COVID-19
A January poll of residents in Philadelphia shows they are concerned for their safety as the city struggles with record-high gun violence, and are also still feeling far-reaching impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Pew Charitable Trusts polling, published in April, finds that 70% of Philadelphians see crime, drugs, and public safety as the most important issue facing the city—up nearly 30 percentage points from 2020. Over the past 12 months, 65% of city residents reported hearing gunshots in their neighborhood. And 85% believe that gun violence in Philadelphia has gotten worse over the past three years. The portion of residents who say they feel safe in their neighborhood at night dropped to 44%, the lowest since the poll’s 2009 onset.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to complicate Philadelphians’ lives through changes to their physical and mental health, household finances, and security. Nearly half of adult residents know someone who has died from the virus, double the percentage in August 2020. Fifty-eight percent say they experience anxiety or nervousness when thinking about the pandemic, and 34% of parents say their child’s emotional health is worse than before the pandemic. In most cases, Hispanic and Black Philadelphians experienced these impacts more than White residents, and all Philadelphians with lower incomes and education levels were particularly hard hit.
The pandemic caused an economic crunch for many Philadelphians, with one-third of respondents saying they are worse off financially than they were in March 2020. For example, 44% of city residents reported having at least a little difficulty paying their rent or mortgage since the pandemic began, and 61% of those with children under 18 living with them reported difficulties paying their rent or mortgage. About one-third of residents believe things will never get back to the way they were before the pandemic and 14% expect the city’s recovery will take at least a year.
“City residents expressed more pessimism about the city’s future than at any time since Pew started polling residents in 2009, with 63% of residents now saying the city is pretty seriously on the wrong track,” says Elinor Haider, who directs Pew’s policy and research team in Philadelphia. “However, they also offered a glimmer of hope: A majority said the city’s best days are ahead.”
Few Signs of Widespread ‘Zoom Fatigue’
As remote work continues for many Americans, more than half of workers who say their jobs can mainly be done from home say they often use online platforms to connect with co-workers (56%). Most of these workers say they are fine with the amount of time they spend on video calls, but about 1 in 4 say they are worn out by it, according to a January 2022 Pew Research Center survey.
The use of video calling or online conferencing services, such as Zoom or Webex, is particularly common among those whose jobs can be done from home and who are, in fact, working from home all or most of the time. About two-thirds of these workers (66%) say they often use online conferencing services, compared with 49% of those who work from home sometimes and 35% who rarely or never do so. Workers who are new to teleworking during the pandemic are more likely than those who had already been teleworking before the COVID-19 outbreak to use videoconferencing: 77% of those who currently work from home all or most of the time—but rarely or never teleworked previously—say they use these services, compared with 48% who currently telework and did so before the pandemic.
Among those who have a job that can be done from home, men are more likely than women to say they use online conferencing software often (61% versus 51%). There are also age differences: 59% of workers ages 18 to 49 who have jobs that can be done from home say they use these tools often, compared with 48% of similar workers 50 and older. College graduates with jobs that can be done from home (68%) are also much more likely than those without a four-year college degree (40%) to say they use online conferencing software often. These differences hold up when looking only at those who are working from home all or most of the time.
Among those who regularly use videoconferencing tools for work, most are not bothered by the amount of time spent on video calls. Roughly three-quarters of working adults who use online conferencing services often (74%) say they are fine with the amount of time they spend on video calls, while 26% say they are worn out by it.
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