A school of fish swimming in the Philippines

IISD Congratulates WTO Members on Achieving Fisheries Subsidies Deal

June 17, 2022

GENEVA, June 17, 2022 – IISD congratulates World Trade Organization (WTO) members on successfully concluding negotiations for a new treaty to curb harmful fisheries subsidies. The deal marks a crucial step in moving the world’s fisheries toward long-term sustainability and in multilateral efforts to address subsidies that harm the natural environment and the well-being of vulnerable communities.

Fisheries support the livelihoods of millions of people, including some of the world’s poorest, who rely on marine resources for food as well as income. But the world’s fishing fleet is far too large for the size of the resource it exploits; by some estimates, it is 2.5 times larger than what would be required to fish sustainably. The final treaty reached in Geneva seeks to ensure support provided to often vulnerable fishing communities does not undermine the sustainability of the resource they depend on.

The agreement prohibits subsidies for vessels and operators engaged in illegal, unreported, or unregulated (IUU) fishing and establishes new rules for subsidies for the fishing of stocks that are already over-exploited. It also prohibits subsidies for fishing of stocks on the high seas that are not managed by regional bodies. The treaty contains certain flexibilities for developing country WTO members, known as special and differential treatment.

“This agreement matters because it will require governments to think critically about their subsidy policies and how they interact with efforts to manage natural resources sustainably,” said Alice Tipping, Lead, Sustainable Trade at IISD. 

The fisheries negotiations at the WTO began in 2001. In recent years, the talks saw renewed momentum due partly to the adoption in 2015 by UN member states of a dedicated target within the wider Sustainable Development Goals, as well as large-scale civil society campaigns such as the Stop Funding Overfishing coalition, of which IISD is a core partner.

“IISD is honoured to be part of the community that has supported these negotiations for many years, and we are delighted to see the agreement now concluded,” said Richard Florizone, IISD President and CEO. “We look forward to working with WTO members so they can ratify and implement this agreement quickly, for the good of the world’s fisheries and the communities that depend on them.”