Trade Minister Tim Groser has led a call at the WTO’s 8th Ministerial Conference in Geneva for urgent action to protect global fish stocks. New Zealand is coordinating a group of countries that includes Argentina, Australia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Norway, Peru and the United States.
The purpose of the meeting, which included a wider range of Government representatives, international media and international environmental NGOs, was to issue a joint statement drawing political attention to the destruction of wild fisheries and to reiterate the group's commitment to ambitious and effective disciplines on fisheries subsidies.
In presenting the statement today on behalf of the group, Mr Groser emphasized that an estimated 85% of the world’s fish stocks were fully exploited, over exploited, depleted or in recovery.
“The depletion of the world’s fish stocks is the clearest example today of what is called ‘the tragedy of the global commons’. Obviously, no country individually seeks the destruction of the wild fisheries of the world, but this is exactly the danger facing certain critical fish stocks in parts of the world unless there is more effective international cooperation to deal with the problem.
“We need action on a variety of fronts, but reduction of harmful subsidies which contribute to over-fishing is a central part of any solution,” Mr Groser said.
“It is first and foremost an environmental tragedy but it is also a development issue of particular importance to developing countries in the Pacific – the source of about half the global wild catch. Fish is part of these countries’ food security. Beyond that, it is also one of their great economic assets, offering Pacific countries significant economic development opportunities.”
The scale of subsidization was huge - around US $20 billion per annum, or US $200 billion since the Doha round began.
“The countries which have signed this statement represent a diverse group of developing and developed countries. We have come together to call for urgent corrective action at all levels - national, regional and international to address harmful subsidization of the fisheries sector. Subsidies that contribute to environmental depletion demand priority attention if we are to have a sustainable future.”
Fisheries Subsidies Ministerial statement (pdf 105.93 KB)