UPDATED: An historic new deal to wind back fishing subsidies, agreed at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, has been secured through Australia, and Pacific partners working together, according to the Australia High Commission of Niue press release yesterday.
On June 17th at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference after a marathon five-day negotiation, a major Pacific regional outcome with a new Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies following negotiations facilitated by New Zealand Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor.
The agreement includes important prohibitions on subsidies related to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; subsidies regarding over-fished stocks; and subsidies provided to fishing taking place on the unregulated high seas.
In a press statement, NZ Minister said that the was” very proud to assist the WTO Director-General as Facilitator for the fisheries negotiation”.
“New Zealand has been at the forefront of calling for an agreement on fisheries subsidies for over twenty years, so this is a significant milestone,” Damien O’Connor said.
According to the Australian press release, the “Pacific Island WTO Members have consistently identified addressing fisheries subsidies as one of their highest priorities at the WTO as these subsidies lead to overfishing in the Pacific and elsewhere.”
Fisheries subsidies damage fish stocks, undermine the economic viability of small-scale producers and jeopardise the livelihoods and food security of communities in the Pacific.
Pacific Island countries present at the Conference who worked in consultation with Australia and Fiji included Samoa, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and Vanuatu, who are members of the World Trade Organisation. Niue is not a member of the WTO.
Niue’s Minister for Natural Resources Hon. Esa Mona Ainu’u said that “this is an important development and one that we have been working through with our Fisheries colleagues in the Pacific to ensure sustainability of the key fish stocks, especially high migratory fish stocks”.
Australia’s High Commissioner to Niue H.E. Louise Ellerton added that “this treaty demonstrates what Australia and our Pacific family can achieve by working together on the international stage. Although not a member of the WTO, we know Niue cares deeply about their ocean.”
A treaty upgrade for further disciplines on fisheries subsidies to address overcapacity and overfishing will further reduce overfishing on the high seas by major fishing nations with long-distance fleets, the type of fishing that is most harmful to fish stocks in the Pacific region.