13 Countries Agree To Combat Overfishing

Dynamite fishing: a destructive way of catching schooling fish in the Philippines.
Credit: © Jurgen Freund / WWF-Canon

Dynamite fishing: a destructive way of catching schooling fish in the Philippines.

The World Wildlife Fund has applauded an initiative from more than a dozen countries to freeze subsidies that encourage overfishing.

It is hoped that this 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, 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.

“It is hard to understand why all governments do not take the same pledge,” said John Tanzer, WWF global marine program director. “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 new national Fisheries Subsidies Guidelines aiming to ensure government support programmes promote good fisheries management, responsible fishing practices and the optimal use of fishery resources.

 “Bad subsidies undermine good management, while good subsidies support management, sustainability and development,” said Dr Efransjah, CEO of WWF Indonesia. “The new Indonesian national guidelines are an important step in the right direction.”