Trade negotiators have missed a deadline to help protect fish stocks

IN 2015 WORLD leaders signed up to a long list of sustainable development goals, among them an agreement to limit government subsidies that contribute to overfishing. Negotiators at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) were told to finish the job “by 2020”. They have missed their deadline.

Overfishing is a tragedy of the commons, with individuals and countries motivated by short-term self-interest to over-consume a limited resource. By one measure, the share of fish stocks being fished unsustainably has risen from 10% in 1974 to 33% in 2015. Governments make things worse with an estimated $22bn of annual subsidies that increase capacity, including for gear, ice, fuel and boat-building. One study estimated that half of fishing operations in the high seas (waters outside any national jurisdiction) would be unprofitable without government support.

Trade ministers were supposed to sort it all out at a WTO meeting in December in Kazakhstan. But the meeting was postponed till June, and big political deals are rarely struck remotely. Moreover, the murky nature of subsidies for unregulated and unreported fishing makes their work unusually difficult. Governments do not have lines in their budget that say “subsidies for illegal fishing”, points out Alice Tipping of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a think-...



via The Economist: Finance and economics Business Feeds

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