"But things are changing in the WTO once again as we speak, thanks to the efforts of civil society. I am referring to the Doha Round negotiations on fisheries subsidies. For the longest time, many viewed the WTO architecture on subsidies as static, as not capable of change. But civil society soon came to knock on our doors, drawing our attention to the perilous state of much of the world's fish stock. Its message was clear, the WTO has a vital role to play in protecting the world's fish stock, in saving it from depletion.
The numbers that think tanks and NGOs put on the table left no room for ambiguity. They required no further explanation. An annual $14-20 billion of fisheries subsidies worldwide has been one of the causes of fish stock depletion, encouraging “too many fishermen to chase after too few fish” as saying now goes. Worldwide, the global fishing fleet, which includes 25,000 large decked-ships and well over 2 million smaller commercial craft, pulls 80 million tons of fish or more from the oceans, or four times the 1950 total! The story was alarming and the WTO Membership once again rose to the challenge.
Today, negotiations on fisheries subsidies in the WTO are in full swing and they are being taken extremely seriously. The Membership realizes the magnitude of what is stake were these negotiations to fail. And just in case it would forget, you have placed banners all over Geneva to remind us all of the need to reach an agreement! But civil society, in this particular case, did not stop at awareness raising, it came forward with technical suggestions on how the WTO could craft new disciplines; and in so doing has certainly made a real contribution. In fact, to a number of civil society actors this particular experience served to demonstrate how close collaboration with WTO Members can sometimes be vital to achieving their goals. "
This reminds me that the WWF issued in 2004 a document titled “Healthy Fisheries, Sustainable Trade: Crafting New Rules On Fishing Subsidies in the World Trade Organization” setting out an outline of future fisheries subsidies rules. Some of the elements of this outline can be found in Brazil’s early submissions (see WTO docs TN/RL/W/176 of 31 March 2005, TN/RL/GEN/56 4 July 2005 and TN/RL/GEN/79 of 16 November 2005).
WWF and Oceana have also been in close touch with the U.S. government to provide advice on how to deal with this negotiating subject.