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STATEMENT 06 March 2019 / 05:00 GMT

UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Ocean Calls for Immediate Action from the World Trade Organization to Eliminate Harmful Fisheries Subsidies

Abu Dhabi, 06 March 2019 - In 2015, Sustainable Development Goal 14.6 was agreed to by all UN Member States as one of the targets of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The goal pledges to prohibit or eliminate harmful fishing subsidies by 2020. Such subsidies contribute to overfishing as well as illegal and unregulated fishing.

At a meeting of the full World Trade Organization (WTO) membership held in Geneva on February 27, 2019, Roberto Azevêdo, Director-General of the WTO, noted the progress being made in WTO negotiations on tackling fisheries subsidies. Such progress would deliver on Sustainable Development Goal 14.6, and Director-General Azevêdo called on members to be ready to engage at the political level in order to deliver an agreement within the 2019 deadline.

The following is a statement from Peter Thomson, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Ocean and Co-Chair of the Friends of Ocean Action:

“Director-General Azevêdo’s words are like a ray of sunshine upon what have for too long been turbid waters. The time for technical discussions on fisheries subsidies at the WTO is over. Negotiations should now move to a political level for decisive action.

“A WTO agreement on fisheries subsidies must be achieved by the end of 2019. Only then can the international community meet the deadline for Sustainable Development Goal 14.6 and stay true to the global plan to conserve and sustainably use the Ocean’s resources.

“According to expert research, fisheries subsidies contributing to overcapacity, overfishing and illegal fishing amount to around $20 billion per annum. It is estimated that 80% to 85% of all fisheries subsidies go to large-scale industrial fleets, thus causing market distortions that hurt small-scale artisanal fishers and the livelihoods of coastal communities.

“Too often we hear there is no money for environmental protection and sustainable development. Part of the answer is to stop wasting our precious wealth on harmful fisheries subsidies. The billions of dollars spent each year on harmful fisheries subsidies are wasted dollars that could be better spent supporting the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Notes to Editors

The Friends of Ocean Action are developing a public private platform to support the World Trade Organization and its members in achieving the SDG 14.6 target.

The Friends of Ocean Action is a coalition of over 50 leaders who are fast-tracking solutions to the most pressing challenges facing the ocean. Its members – the Friends – come from business, civil society, international organizations, science and technology.

This Coalition is convened by the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with the World Resources Institute.