U.S., Other WTO Members Seek New Rules to Reduce Overfishing

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By Bryce Baschuk

Dec. 17 — The U.S. and nearly two dozen World Trade Organization (WTO) members said they would pursue new trade rules to prevent overfishing of the world's oceans.

The proposal seeks to curb fishing subsidies and increase transparency over national programs that “contribute to overfishing and overcapacity,” according to a ministerial statement that circulated during the WTO's 10th ministerial conference (MC10) in Nairobi, Kenya.

The proposal specifically seeks to eliminate subsidies that could result in overfishing in areas with limited fish stocks and prohibit subsidies for vessels used by illegal, unreported or unregulated operators.

The text further acknowledges the importance of special and differential treatment for developing and least-developed countries (LDCs) but notes that such protections “must be appropriate and not undermine” the effectiveness of any new WTO fishing rules.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said there is a “clear and compelling opportunity for the WTO to improve trade rules to address harmful fisheries subsidies — and help stop and reverse global overfishing,” in a separate news release.

Nearly 30 percent of the world's global fishing stocks are classified as overfished, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bryce Baschuk in Geneva at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerome Ashton at jashton@bna.com

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