KARACHI: Global environmental organisation WWF has applauded an initiative from more than a dozen countries to freeze subsidies that encourage overfishing, hoping it will spur action by other governments and help speed progress on the more than a decade of negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
In a joint release at the 9th WTO Ministerial Conference at Bali in Indonesia, trade ministers for Argentina, Australia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines and the United States committed their countries not to introduce any new subsidies that contribute to overfishing or the overcapacity of fishing fleets, and to refrain from extending any existing programs that might do so.
The countries, known collectively as the “Friends of Fish”, also jointly called for swift completion of talks to adopt new WTO rules banning harmful fisheries subsidies.
“The statement issued today in Bali by the ‘Friends of Fish’ shows the continuing leadership of these governments in the fight to end subsidized overfishing,” said John Tanzer, WWF Global Marine Programme director.
“It is hard to understand why all governments do not take the same pledge. With so many fisheries already stretched past sustainable limits, and with a billion people depending on fish for their food security, subsidies that deplete fish stocks are a form of madness.”
In a parallel initiative, Indonesia, the host country for the WTO Ministerial, also committed to complete new national Fisheries Subsidies Guidelines aiming to ensure government support programmes promote good fisheries management, responsible fishing practices, and optimal use of fishery resources.
At a side event jointly convened by WWF and the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Gellwynn Jusuf, Director General of Capture Fisheries, said that public consultations on the guidelines text were launched last week.
“Bad subsidies undermine good management, while good subsidies support management, sustainability and development,” said Dr. Efransjah, CEO of WWF-Indonesia, speaking at the event. “The new Indonesian national guidelines are an important step in the right direction.”
WWF has worked for over a decade to end subsidies that are contrary to sustainable fisheries management. But experts estimate that fishing subsidies equivalent to tens of billions of dollars are still used annually in the fisheries sector without attention to their impacts on sustainability. The Friends of Fish have been instrumental in pushing for binding new WTO rules to prohibit the most dangerous fisheries subsidies and to subject the rest to strict environmental criteria.