Eliminating fisheries subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

Fisheries are a key source of economic opportunity for Pacific Islanders and Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ recognise fisheries as one of the regions sustainable development priorities.

Whilst recognising the important role of subsidies in contributing to the development of its fisheries sector, Pacific countries are increasingly concerned about the significant challenges on the sustainability of their fisheries resources due to the implications of harmful fisheries subsidies which fuel illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and fishing of overfished stock by distant water fishing nations.

In their Pohnpei Ocean Statement (2016), Forum Leaders committed to the “sustainable management of fisheries and the elimination of fisheries subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing”.

Last week the Forum Secretariat collaborated with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to run a workshop for Pacific WTO members looking at some of the key decisions coming out of the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference and approaches on a way forward in its negotiations over the period 2018-2019. One of the most important outcomes for the region was on fisheries subsidies.

At the Ministerial Conference members agreed “to continue to engage constructively in the fisheries subsidies negotiations, with a view to adopting, by the Ministerial Conference in 2019, an agreement on comprehensive and effective disciplines that prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, and eliminate subsidies that contribute to IUU-fishing recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing country Members and least developed country Members should be an integral part of these negotiations.”

Last week’s meeting was an opportunity for Pacific trade officials to discuss the subsidies negotiations that lead to the MC11 decision, discuss approaches and a strategy in the negotiations going forward, and to look at what kinds of trade disciplines are necessary for their countries to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 14.6.