Harmful incentives: The case of fisheries subsidies

Addressing government incentives that drive unsustainable fisheries practices is not just an environmental imperative. Government subsidies in the fisheries sector can also have severe negative social and economic impacts for the most vulnerable countries and communities. The adoption of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 brings hope of addressing this unfair situation, specifically thanks to Target 14.6, whereby the international community has committed to prohibit fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing and to IUU fishing. Considerable resources would be saved if harmful fisheries subsidies were prohibited and spent to secure the implementation of other SDG 14 targets for the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean, for example through a Blue Fund that would be established to that effect. Inaction on fish subsidies at the latest Ministerial Conference of the WTO held in December 2015 – three months after the adoption of the SDGs – is not an encouraging sign, but the upcoming High-Level United Nations Conference on Oceans and Seas in June 2017 may provide a new opportunity.

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