World Trade Organization (WTO)


Harmful subsidies for fishing are depleting the world's oceans. This hurts everybody, including those receiving the subsidies, as global fish stocks collapse. The welfare of fisherfolk and the wider public is better served when marine life is kept healthy and abundant.

The World Trade Organization (WTO), the international organization dealing with the rules of trade among 164 member economies, may seem an unlikely forum for the issue of ocean sustainability. However, because it is the only organization that can set and enforce agreements to rein in distortive subsidies, world leaders have entrusted to the WTO the important task of fixing rules on state pay-outs for fishing.

WTO Ministers at the 11th Ministerial Conference agreed, in language mirroring UN Sustainable Development Goal target 14.6, to “adopt[…], by the [12th] Ministerial Conference, 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".



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