More than half of the world's fisheries are now in deep trouble.
But an achievable solution exists.
The race is on to bring all nations together in a global agreement,
before it's too late.
Imagine you have two friends, and both love fishing. Friend A has a shiny new rod, a speedy motorboat, and unlimited bait, thanks to his rich uncle who pays for everything. Friend B, on the other hand, only has an old rod and a small rowboat, and has to dig for his own worms. The odds seem pretty skewed in favor of Friend A, right?
Now, replace these friends with countries. Some countries, like Friend A, can afford to give their fishing industries lots of financial support, known as subsidies. They can provide money for better boats, cheaper fuel, or advanced fishing gear, which allows their fishermen to catch a lot more fish - often a lot more than their fair share.
The WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies is a bit like a referee stepping in to level the playing field. The World Trade Organization (WTO) oversees this agreement, aiming to set rules on what kind of financial support countries can give to their fishing industries. It helps ensure that no country is at an unfair disadvantage.
Now, why is this important?
It's not just about fairness, it's also about the health of our oceans. Because when countries subsidize their fishing industries, it can lead to overfishing — catching too many fish and not leaving enough to sustain healthy populations. This can harm the entire ocean ecosystem, and also the millions of people around the world who depend on fishing for their livelihood or for food. By limiting subsidies, the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies helps to protect fish populations and the overall health of our oceans.
So, to sum it up, this agreement balances the interests of all players, while also taking care of the shared 'fishing pond' - our precious oceans.
Actor Ted Danson, "Change Makers" film
The WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies is exciting for a couple of reason:
Firstly, this agreement is a prime example of countries putting aside their individual interests to address a shared global challenge - overfishing. Remember, the WTO has 164 member countries, so getting all of them to agree on a common set of rules is a big achievement!
Secondly, it's a huge win for the environment. Overfishing is a serious threat to ocean ecosystems around the world, and this agreement can help protect these vital habitats by ensuring sustainable fishing practices. This is a major move toward preserving our oceans, which are critical to life on Earth.
Thirdly, it's also a win for social equity and food security. By setting limits on the subsidies that countries can provide to their fishing industries, the agreement can help level the playing field for smaller and developing countries, and artesinal fishermen and women. This can provide a fairer chance for small scale fishers -many of whom report that their fishing catches are so low, they can no longer support themselves.
All of these are big, important issues, and this agreement tackles them head-on. That's definitely something to get excited about!
The WTO Agreement was passed unanimously in June 2022.
The agreement needs to be ratified by two thirds of the WTOs 164 members (so, 110 members) by February 2024 in order to come into effect. If it isn’t ratified, the agreement will be dissolved and we’ll be back to square one.
In August 2023, only 14 countries had ratified the agreement.
See if your country has ratified the WTO Treaty on Fisheries Subsidies.
Watch the story of two men fighting to end fishing on the High Seas.
Featuring Rashid Sumaila, Daniel Pauly, Jennifer Jacquet, and voiced by actor Ted Danson.