Commonwealth calls for global action to ensure sustainable fisheries trade

By on 30/09/2015 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Photo credit: Commonwealth Secretariat

The Commonwealth Secretariat has called for “coherent global action” to conserve fish stocks and deliver a fisheries trade deal that supports small and developing countries at a conference co-hosted with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva, Switzerland, this week.

The three-day Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on Trade in Sustainable Fisheries from 29 September-1 October brings together diplomats and leading policy experts from small island nations and developed economies, and will result in a roadmap of practical policy recommendations for governments.

The conference comes days after world leaders in New York agreed a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including a standalone goal to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.

In a statement, Commonwealth deputy secretary-general Deodat Maharaj said that, if the world is to eliminate overfishing and destructive fishing practices by 2020, a key task will be to translate targets into trade rules at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Maharaj said: “The achievement of targets such as the end of overfishing and destructive fishing practices and the implementation of science-based management plans to restore fish stocks by 2020 will be extremely difficult to achieve without coherent global action.”

Maharaj said that, while there are hopes that the SDGs may “build momentum”, the “question of how to balance sustainable development and conservation remains, as does the challenge of translating the SDG goals into practical action by WTO members within the existing framework of multilateral trade rules.”

In 2010, exports of fish and related fish products reached US$136 billion worth of global exports. About 97% of the world’s fishermen live in developing countries and over 90% are employed in small-scale fishing, including in many Commonwealth member states.

Researchers have also raised concerns about the depletion of marine life through overfishing, with commercial fish stocks falling by 50% between 1970 and 2010.

Despite 14 years of trade talks on fisheries subsidies and market access at the WTO under the Doha Development Agenda, a multilateral deal has yet to emerge. Later this year, the WTO’s Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in December, governments will again consider the negotiations.

UNCTAD deputy secretary-general Joakim Reiter said: “We can do much for fish conservation and trade but we have no luxury of time – time has run out. Now we need concrete and strong actions to stop the depletion of fish.”


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Click here to find out more about the Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on Trade in Sustainable Fisheries

Click here to find out more about the Commonwealth Secretariat 

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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