WTO fails to make deal on cutting subsidies that kill fish at an alarming rate

Fish, photo: Sebastian Pena Lambarri on Unsplash
Fish, photo: Sebastian Pena Lambarri on Unsplash

World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiators have failed to reach an agreement to cut the fishing subsidies that destroy fish all over the world. The deadline was the end of 2020.

World leaders committed in 2015 to several United Nations (UN) targets; one ordered the WTO to finally strike a deal by 2020 on ending subsidies worth billions of dollars that contribute to overfishing.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Britain’s Prince Charles and naturalist David Attenborough have urged action from the WTO to stop overfishing.

Billions of dollars of damaging subsidies continue to be poured into fishing every year. The money makes fuel cheaper and increases capacity so boats catch more fish.

Analysts say the subsidies make fishing seem more profitable than it really is and drive a global decline in fish populations.

Fishing subsidies are estimated to be as high as $35 billion worldwide, of which $20 billion directly contributes to overfishing. These subsidies mean that taxpayers are paying industrial boats to degrade the environment.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) data, the percentage of stocks fished at biologically unsustainable levels increased from 10 percent in 1974 to 34 percent in 2017.

In September 2015, global leaders agreed on a new Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on fisheries, Goal 14, to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, sea, and marine resources. Target 14.6 addressed harmful subsidies; this issue had to be resolved by the end of 2020, but the deadline was not made.

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