109 Organizations Around the Globe Urge World Leaders to Reach a WTO Deal to Help Save Our Ocean

This June, governments around the world must fulfil their commitment to curb the public money that supports overfishing and degrades our ocean. After nearly two decades of negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO), now is the moment for leaders to act to end harmful fisheries subsidies. Ahead of the WTO’s Ministerial Conference, which is scheduled to launch on World Ocean Day, 109 organizations from around the world urge world leaders to reach a meaningful agreement to stop these harmful subsidies as time has run out.

Despite the fact that a third of fish stocks are already exploited beyond sustainable levels1, governments continue to provide an estimated US$22billion every year in harmful subsidies that increase fishing capacity.2 While these subsidies may be aimed at helping coastal communities, they can instead encourage fishing beyond profitable and sustainable levels in coastal waters and on the high seas, degrading the very resources on which these communities depend and jeopardising the future of the industry they set out to support.

In 2015, world leaders recognized the damage that harmful subsidies cause to fish stocks and the marine environment when they adopted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. SDG Target 14.6 tasked governments with reaching a new agreement at the WTO to eliminate harmful subsidies by 2020. This deadline has mobilized the international community but makes the WTO’s Twelfth Ministerial Conference, this June, our last, best chance to achieve meaningful reform.

The final international agreement must trigger prompt and significant reductions by the largest subsidizers. Moreover, it must establish a binding framework that drives the phase out of all harmful subsidies that contribute to fleet overcapacity and overfishing, and eliminates subsidies to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by all WTO member governments. Countries at all stages of development should be prepared to improve the health of their fisheries and support the livelihoods of their fishers by reforming their fisheries subsidies programs once an agreement is reached. Anything less would miss this generational opportunity to replot the course of global fishing fleets toward sustainability, improve the health of ocean ecosystems, and help ensure that the ocean will continue to provide for the many millions who depend on it, now and into the future.

A deal is possible. We call upon world leaders to work swiftly to find landing zones in order to successfully deliver on the SDG mandate by the 2020 deadline. An agreement would demonstrate not only that WTO members can cooperate to deliver an outcome of global importance, but also that the SDGs represent a real pathway toward a better future.

Now is the time for action.

Download the Policy Statement here.


1) FAO (2018) “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018 – Meeting the sustainable development goals”. Rome.
License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
2) Sumaila et. al (2019) “Updated estimates and analysis of global fisheries subsidies”, Marine Policy 109.

SIGNEES: Advocates for Public Interest Law (APIL) – ANA: Asociación Asturiana de Amigos de la Naturalez – Animal Latitude – Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) – APECE – Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation – Associació de Naturalistes de Girona – Association Biom – Beta Diversidad – BirdLife Cyprus – BirdLife Internationa – BirdLife Sverige – BirdWatch Ireland – BLOOM – Blue Marine Foundation – Blue Resources Trust – Centro Ballena Azul – Círculo de Políticas Ambientales – Citizens’ Institute for Environmental Science (CIES) – ClientEarth – Coalition Clean Baltic – Coalition for Fair Fisheries Agreements (CFFA) – CODEMAR (Coalición en Defensa de los Mares de México) – Colectivo Ecologista de Avilés – Conservation International – Coordinadora Ecoloxista d’Asturies – Cork Environmental Forum – CREMA – Danmarkus Naturfredningsforening – Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) – Depana – Desmitificando Tiburones – Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V. (Environmental Action Germany) – Earth Law Center – EarthJustice – ECO (Proazul Terrestre A.C.) – Ecologistas en Acción – Ecotrust Canada – El Chorlitejo Plataforma para la defensa del litoral del sureste de Gran Canaria – Elasmo Project – Environmental Justice Foundation – Environmental Management and Economic Development Organization (EMEDO) – Fauna & Flora International – France Nature Environment – Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument – Fundació ENT – Fundación Mar Adentro – Fundación MarViva – Fundación Terram – GEOTA – Gesellschaft zur Rettung der Delphine – Global Fishing Watch – Global Ocean Trust – Good Fish Foundation – Greenpeace – Humane Society International (HSI) – Iceland Nature Conservation Association (INCA) – Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) – International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) – International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) – International Institute for Sustsainable Development (IISD) – International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM) – Ligue Pour La Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) – Lithuanian Ornithological Society (LOD) – LPN: Liga para a Protecção da Natureza – Manta Trust – Marine Conservation Institute – Marine Conservation Society – MedReAct – MEER e.V. – Mission Blue – Mundus Maris – Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. (NRDC) – New Economics Foundation – Observatório do Mar dos Açores – Ocean Conservancy – Ocean Outcomes – Ocean Unite – Oceana – OceanCare – OceanoSanos – Ondarroa 12 Milia – Our Fish – PONG-Pesca – Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA) – Posidonia Green Project – Pro Wildlife – Qingdao Marine Conservation Society (QMCS) – Quercus – Associação Nacional de Conservação da Natureza (ANCN) – Sciaena – Sea First Foundation – Sea Shepherd Global – Seal Rescue Ireland – Seas At Risk – SHARKPROJECT International – Submon – Sunce – Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) – Swedish Society for Nature Conservation – The Environment and Conservation Organizations of New Zealand (ECO) – The Nature Conservancy (TNC) – The Pew Charitable Trusts – Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) – Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) – WILDTRUST – World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers (WFF) – World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) International – Zoological Society of London