From: , Oceana, More from this Affiliate
Published December 7, 2009 11:15 AM

World’s Leading Marine Scientists Call on WTO Ministers to Stop Overfishing Subsidies

Geneva, Switzerland,— As World Trade Organization (WTO) ministers met in Geneva, Switzerland, to review WTO activities, including the Doha work program, nine leading marine scientists called on them to combat global overfishing by controlling government subsidies to their fishing sectors.

In a letter to WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy on the second day of the Seventh Ministerial Conference, the scientists asserted that "the WTO has an unprecedented opportunity to make new trade rules that will turn the tide for the world’s fisheries." The scientists recognized the relevance of trade and the WTO to the environment and urged the Director-General to "continue to use your leadership to achieve a successful outcome in the fisheries subsidies negotiations and demonstrate to the world that the WTO can play a constructive role in solving problems of global consequence." 

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The scientists referenced data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), showing that global fishery resources have been depleted by an additional five percent since the Doha trade round started. The FAO now finds that 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are overexploited, fully exploited, significantly depleted or recovering from overexploitation. The scientists also pointed to a recent World Bank study that found an estimated $50 billion is lost globally each year — equivalent to more than half the value of the global catch — because of poor fisheries governance and overexploitation.

The scientists indicated that a WTO deal on fisheries subsidies is essential. "The health of the world’s oceans is currently hanging in the balance. Climate change, ocean acidification, and overfishing are putting tremendous strains on the oceans, and threaten the viability of ecosystems that have provided food, jobs, and much more to humanity for millennia. The inevitable consequences of climate change make it essential that the nations of the world act immediately to reduce other impacts on the ocean, including, perhaps most importantly, overfishing," they wrote.

Oceana also recognized the relevance of this week’s Ministerial meeting, themed The WTO, the Multilateral Trading System and the Current Global Economic Environment, to marine conservation. "The global economic environment is enhanced by a healthy natural environment," said Courtney Sakai, senior campaign director at Oceana. "The multilateral trading system can produce one of the greatest contributions towards protecting the oceans by reducing fisheries subsidies."

For more information about global fisheries subsidies, please visit http://na.oceana.org/sites/default/files/Fisheries_Subsidies_Backgrounder.doc

Photo Credit: WWF

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