U.S. Senators Call for Worldwide Ban on Destructive Fishing Subsidies

World Trade Organization holds solution to end major cause of global

overfishing; Congress, Bush Administration gives strong backing to WTO

fisheries subsidies negotiations, says Oceana.

May 04, 2007, 01:00 ET from Oceana

    WASHINGTON, May 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A bipartisan group of 13
 United States Senators, led by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), introduced a
 resolution Thursday night calling for the United States to pursue an
 international ban on government subsidies to the fishing sector that are
 supporting the overfishing of the world's oceans. Earlier this week, the
 United States Ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Peter
 Allgeier, presented an ambitious U.S. proposal that would broadly prohibit
 fisheries subsidies at WTO negotiations in Geneva including delegates
 representing the WTO's 150-member countries.
     Worldwide fisheries subsidies are estimated at $30 to $34 billion
 annually -- levels equal to approximately 25 percent of world fishing
 revenue. At least $20 billion are "harmful" subsidies that drive increased
 and intensified fishing by providing support for boat construction and
 modernization, fishing equipment and fuel and other operational costs. The
 United States is involved in ongoing WTO negotiations as part of the Doha
 trade "round" to strengthen the international rules on fisheries subsidies,
 including through the prohibition of subsidies that contribute to
 overcapacity and overfishing. This week is the first time that the United
 States proposal, which was submitted in March, has been discussed in the
 WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations.
     "The WTO can produce the single greatest action to protect the world's
 oceans by eliminating overfishing subsidies," said Courtney Sakai, campaign
 director at Oceana. "The strong bipartisan showing by the United States
 Senate to stop destructive fishing subsidies continues to demonstrate the
 commitment of the Congress and the Bush Administration towards achieving an
 ambitious outcome in the WTO negotiations."
     Along with Senator Stevens, other co-sponsors of the resolution include
 Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sen. Maria
 Cantwell (D-WA), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME),
 Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Sen. Trent Lott
 (R-Miss.), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK.), Sen.
 Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), and Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.). The Senate
 resolution follows a series of recent actions by the U.S. Congress to
 address domestic and international overfishing. Last year, the U.S.
 Congress enacted the requirement to end overfishing by 2011 in U.S.
 fisheries in its reauthorization of the Magnuson- Stevens Fishery
 Conservation and Management Act. In March, a resolution on fisheries
 subsidies (H.Con.Res.94) was introduced in the U.S. House of
 Representatives by Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), chairwoman of the
 Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Oceans and Wildlife.
     "The world's fisheries are near total collapse, yet many governments
 continue to sponsor overfishing with the billions of dollars in subsidies
 they dole out to the fishing sector," continued Sakai. "To end overfishing,
 follow the money that supports it and make the money stop."
     The largest overall fishing subsidizers are Japan ($5.3 billion), the
 European Union ($3.3 billion), and China ($3.1 billion). The United States
 provides relatively few capacity-building subsidies to its domestic fishing
 industry, and continued subsidization by other governments to their
 commercial fleets put domestic fishermen at competitive disadvantage in
 their ability to fish and to sell their products on the international
     Fisheries subsidies also preserve uneconomic and inefficient practices.
 A recent study found that high seas bottom trawling would not be profitable
 without high levels of government subsidies. This fishing practice is
 destructive enough that the United Nations has called for it to be severely
 restricted - an action supported by President Bush, Senator Stevens and
 other members of Congress. Fisheries subsidies have also been documented to
 support illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing, sometimes
 referred to as "pirate fishing."
     For more information on fisheries subsidies, visit
 http://www.cutthebait.org .
     Oceana campaigns to protect and restore the world's oceans. Our teams
 of marine scientists, economists, lawyers and advocates win specific and
 concrete policy changes to reduce pollution and to prevent the irreversible
 collapse of fish populations, marine mammals and other sea life. Global in
 scope and dedicated to conservation, Oceana has campaigners based in North
 America (Washington, DC; Juneau, AK; Los Angeles, CA), Europe (Madrid,
 Spain; Brussels, Belgium) and South America (Santiago, Chile). More than
 300,000 members and e-activists in over 150 countries have already joined
 Oceana. For more information, please visit http://www.Oceana.org .