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Global fishing subsidies can contribute to overfishing. PHOTO: XIE MINGFEI/VCG/GETTY IMAGES View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Researchers demand a ban on harmful fishing subsidies

Published: 4 November 2021

Almost 300 researchers from around the world demands that the World Trade Organization (WTO) must work for a ban on harmful subsidies in the fishing industry.The demand is published in the renowned research journal Science in the light of the WTO ministerial meeting in Geneva at the end of November. One of the signatories is Jesper Stage, professor of economics at Luleå University of Technology.

In the debate article, the researchers write that during its November meeting, the WTO has a unique opportunity to put an end to subsidies that lead to overfishing, threaten biodiversity, increase carbon dioxide emissions and undermine the possibility to feed the world's population.

Harmful subsidies refer, among other things, to financial support that reduces the costs of fuel, ship manufacturing and price support that creates artificially high price levels. Furthermore, the researchers demand that subsidies to fishing fleets fishing on the high seas and in international waters should be abolished. Such subsidies threaten low income countries that depend on fishing food sovereignty.

Support for low-income countries

To ensure compliance, the researchers recommend that an agreement banning harmful subsidies contains clauses on documentation of data and enforcement measures. It is also recommended that low-income countries be offered support under the agreement so that they can fulfill their commitments to the transition to sustainable fishing.

There is much else that individual countries can also do better in their fish management, but an international ban on harmful fisheries subsidies would help very many fish stocks at once and is the measure that would be absolutely easiest to implement globally, says Jesper Stage.