The EU has pledged €1m for the Fisheries Funding Mechanism that forms part of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, reports Andy Read.

The agreement, reached at the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference at the UN in New York last June, is designed to clamp down on subsidies that lead to overfishing. It is the WTO’s first multilateral agreement to support sustainability, highlighting the importance attached to the issue. The deal is yet to be formally ratified – two-thirds of countries in the WTO need to notify their acceptance to bring it into effect.

The agreement follows years of deadlock between countries, and numerous attempts to agree a phase-out of subsidies that many nations, including the UK, see as directly harmful to their own fishing industries, as well as encouraging environmental bad practice. The Chinese government, in particular, has been regularly criticised for providing fuel subsidies to its distant-water fleet, allowing it to continue fishing in places such as West Africa and South America, which would otherwise be financially unviable.

With payments to some individual Chinese vessels estimated to be exceeding $500,000 a year, and a budget exceeding $4bn annually, campaigners have long argued that abolition of these subsidies worldwide would benefit both the environment and other fishermen not provided with this type of support.

The UK was at the forefront of international efforts to see harmful subsidies abolished, including organising a pre- meeting of sympathetic ministers ahead of the WTO meeting, where Lord Zac Goldsmith was lead negotiator for the UK.

The new EU funding will provide grants to developing and least-developed countries to help them benefit from technical assistance and capacity-building to implement the WTO agreement. These grants will complement and leverage other available assistance for sustainable fisheries, and are seen by many as a way of providing a ‘carrot’ for compliance with the agreement.

Confirming the funding, which it is hoped will encourage ratification of the agreement, EU commissioner for trade Valdis Dombrovskis said: “The Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies is a major step forward for ocean sustainability. It prohibits harmful fisheries subsidies, which are a key factor in the widespread depletion of the world’s fish stocks.

“It is paramount that all WTO members, regardless of their means or level of development, implement this agreement effectively and as soon as possible. By pledging €1m to the Fisheries Funding Mechanism, the EU is helping those who do not currently possess sufficient technical know-how or capacity to do just that.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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