The international organisation for the conservation of the oceans is proposing that subsidies stop being granted to industrial fleets and major ship-owners and instead are dedicated to artisanal, sustainable fisheries.
At the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) held in Hong Kong between 13 and 18 December, Oceana called on representatives of the countries present and the Director General of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, to put a stop to fishing subsidies that encourage overfishing and other destructive fishing practices.
“In this respect, the WTO needs to enact reforms to help abolish policies that are irrational from both an environmental and a market point of view”, stated Xavier Pastor, the Director of Oceana in Europe. “Greater control of subsidies would not only eliminate fishing practices that destroy fisheries resources and marine ecosystems but would also prevent many patently illegal practices from being financed with taxpayers’ money”.
The members of Oceana acting as observers at the Hong Kong meeting have prepared a detailed dossier for delegates which shows proof of how hundreds of millions of euros, generated by the taxes paid by European Union citizens, are earmarked for subsidising destructive fishing practices. An example of this is the subsidies granted by the Italian and Spanish governments to finance the activities of trawlers involved in rogue fishing, or driftnetters that use fishing gear that has been banned by the European Union and the United Nations.
Oceana maintains that major deep-sea fleets and their ship-owners should no longer receive these subsidies, which are used for the construction and renovation of their vessels, paying for fuel and fisheries reconnaissance surveys. These funds should instead be redirected towards promoting sustainable fishing practices, and especially towards maintaining artisanal fleets that use fishing gear with a low environmental impact, generate plenty of jobs, focus on populations in coastal locations and guarantee the food safety of populations.
Experts confirm that fisheries around the world are moving close to irreversible collapse. The FAO estimates that more than 75% of fish stocks are overexploited or at the maximum limits of their exploitation, while more than one thousand million people around the world depend upon fishing as their main source of protein. Subsidies for industrial fleets that encourage abusive, unsustainable fishing practices, along with the destruction of marine habitats, are endangering the medium-term viability of this essential food source.
According to Oceana, the measures that should be adopted in Hong Kong should be geared towards banning subsidies for destructive fishing, increasing transparency in the concession of fishing subsidies, and redirecting subsidies towards artisanal fleets and less-developed countries.