WTO urged to address illegal fishing in disputed waters

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is calling on other World Trade Organization (WTO) members to immediately conclude negotiations on fisheries subsidies to address illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in disputed waters.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said illegal fishing in disputed waters must be immediately addressed as he cited a provision that prohibits a WTO panel from entertaining any claim that would require it to address any issues of territoriality.

“Issues of territorial claims or delimitation of maritime boundaries or zones are of the highest concern for the Philippines but nothing must prohibit a duly constituted Panel from hearing a case,” Dar said.

He said the flexibility and exemptions for poor and vulnerable artisanal fishers in developing countries and least-developed countries should not be permanent to address overcapacity and overfishing.

“The Philippines stands together with other members who are committed to deliver an outcome in the fisheries subsidy negotiations. This will only be possible if there is solid political will and diplomatic flexibility in the negotiations,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.

Negotiations on fisheries subsidies have been going on for nearly 20 years.

Negotiators were initially expected to reach an agreement for disciplines to eliminate subsidies for IUU fishing and overcapacity and overfishing last year.

Citing the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the WTO said one-third of global fish stocks are overfished, while the most of the rest is fully exploited.

It said depleted fish stocks are threatening not just food security, but also the income of those who rely on fishing.

Every year, governments provide around $35 billion worth of fisheries subsidies, with two-thirds going to commercial fishers.

The WTO said these subsidies are keeping at sea vessels which would otherwise be economically unviable.

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