Trade and Environment Review 2016

Fish Trade

image of Trade and Environment Review 2016

The Trade and Environment Review 2016 addresses the matter of harmful incentives, primarily in terms of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and fisheries subsidies, as an important part of the toolkit to restore fish populations, foster sustainable fisheries and deliver substantial economic and social gains. The Review proposes developing an overarching traceability system of traded fish from vessel to final consumer, as key to arresting and eliminating IUU fishing, but notes the requirement for major upgrading of institutional and technical implementation capacities, which may be difficult for some countries with fewer financial resources. On subsidies, there should be full transparency and disclosure of all fisheries subsidies, which should be classified in order to identify and distinguish those that are harmful or not. Efforts to discipline capacity-enhancing subsidies should be exerted at the national, regional and global levels of governance and, given previous intransience on this issue, a group of countries in partnership with organizations such as the WTO, UNCTAD and the FAO could stimulate collective actions with bottom-up voluntary commitments to subsidy reform.



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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