Rancor rises as WTO talks drill down on overfishing

Ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations on a deal to curtail harmful fishing subsidies are stumbling over the issue of carve-outs for the artisanal fisheries of developing nations.

Exemptions for small, coastal fishing operations have been a thorny issue impeding progress on a deal over the last several months.

The latest round of negotiations, taking place at WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, are focused on precise wording for how subsidies should be applied in the case of overfished stocks. Two articles in the text being worked on by negotiators refer to overfishing, but the negotiating parties disagree on whether subsidies should be completely banned in the case of overfished stocks. Some nations are insisting on exemptions in cases where there are fishing stocks classified as overfished but where appropriate measures have been implemented to promote the rebuilding of the stock to a sustainable level.

A proposal being considered “would allow members to grant subsidies that may contribute to overfishing if they can demonstrate fisheries management is in place for sustainability,” according to a trade official in Geneva.

“Some members suggest that the complexity of subsidies means some can help rebuild stocks. Others want them stopped completely when a stock is overfished,” the official told SeafoodSource.

Members have yet to agree on how to determine whether a stock is overfished and which stock assessment would take precedence in the event of a dispute. And several developing country members feel they should be exempted from the prohibition altogether.

The heads of the delegations attending the WTO talks will meet again on 12 April for a week of small-group meetings, in addition to a pair of plenaries with a focus on subsistence fishing and on due process for determinations of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Photo courtesy of O_Voltz/Shutterstock


Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500