On 19 May, ICTSD organised an informal roundtable aimed at examining means to advance Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.6 through fisheries subsidies disciplines in the WTO ahead of the 11th Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires and beyond, with particular attention paid to subsidies to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Negotiations towards a possible agreement on fisheries are gaining momentum; several WTO Members have repeatedly highlighted this issue as a possible deliverable for the next ministerial conference. Recent proposals tabled in the WTO Rules Negotiating Group on fisheries subsidies include proposals for prohibiting subsidies provided to vessels and operators involved in IUU fishing. Some proposals suggest a general prohibition of all subsidies to IUU fishing as defined in the IPOA-IUU. For some, the prohibition should apply to any subsidy granted to a vessel or an operator identified in the IUU fishing list of the subsidising member or a regional fisheries management organisation (RFMO). The negotiations involve technical questions that require clarification, including how national and RFMO IUU vessel lists are constructed, what the exact scope of the prohibition should be and what type of technical assistance or transition periods might be needed.
This workshop aims to provide negotiators with a better understanding of these technical issues, starting with how IUU fishing is defined and then moving to the operational implications of potential disciplines, in particular how IUU activity could be identified and how a prohibition on subsidies to IUU fishing could be applied. The roundtable helped to build convergence by providing a neutral space for informal dialogue among leading WTO negotiators and selected fisheries experts on the specific challenges under discussion. Issues covered ranged from the definition of IUU fishing to how RFMO vessel lists are constructed and how a prohibition on subsidies to IUU fishing could be operationalised.
The meeting followed on from the E15 Engagement Day on the WTO and MC11, held on 26 September 2016, as part of a series of dialogues to be organised over the course of the year to delve further into selected topics as they evolve.