Australia has reaffirmed its commitment through the World Trade Organization (WTO) to the elimination of harmful subsidies which create serious distortions in global fish markets and deplete the world’s fisheries.
Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb confirmed that overnight Australia had joined more than 25 other countries in endorsing a new Fisheries Subsidies Ministerial Statement during the WTO’s 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi.
“The sustainability of our fisheries is an urgent resource problem facing the global community and Australia as an island continent has a keen awareness of the importance of addressing the causes of depletion through overfishing,” Mr Robb said.
Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston has welcomed the endorsement of the statement, adding she’s pleased the conference acknowledged the global importance of the sustainability of our fisheries.
“Australia’s capture fisheries and aquaculture sector provides seafood to Australia and the world – with production forecast to be worth $2.9 billion in 2015–16 – but we need to manage these sectors responsibly to protect these important returns into the future,” Senator Ruston said.
Disturbingly, the world’s fisheries resources continue to decline and are in certain cases at risk of collapse, with nearly 30 per cent of global stocks classified as being overfished while 61 per cent of stocks are classified as being fully fished.
“Despite this reality, billions-of-dollars-a-year are still being spent by governments on harmful fishing subsidies and as a result we have increased our collective resolve to take further measures aimed at the conservation and sustainable management of our fisheries,” Mr Robb said.
“The WTO must play a central role in achieving a strong level of discipline on fisheries subsidies that are clearly contributing to overfishing and overcapacity. We need to take urgent action to control, reduce and eventually eliminate these distortionary subsidies.”
The statement endorsed pledges to reinvigorate work in the WTO to achieving effective disciplines on subsidies, which should include, but not be limited to, prohibitions on subsidies for fishing that negatively affects already overfished stocks and those provided to vessels or operators engaged in illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing.
“We will also push for enhanced WTO transparency and reporting to enable the most accurate evaluation of trade and resource effects of fisheries subsidies programmes,” Mr Robb said.
Senator Ruston said the Commonwealth fisheries regulator, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) takes a precautionary approach to our fisheries management, enforcing strict management measures to reduce overfishing.
“The recent ABARES Fishery Status Reports 2015 showed that no solely Commonwealth managed fish stocks are subject to overfishing for the second year running thanks to the efforts of the AFMA,” Senator Ruston said.
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