Dear G-20: Stop Overfishing Subsidies

market fish overfishing photo

Image credit: FrenchDuck/Flickr
This guest post was written by Andy Sharpless, CEO of Oceana.

Last month I participated in the Mission Blue Voyage to the Galapagos, a first-of-its kind conference hosted by TED and led by legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle. There were 100 of us on board, including celebrity environmental advocates, marine scientists and non-profit leaders, and we all came together to find answers to the ocean's biggest problems. I was one of seven "idea champions" on board, and my idea was this: We can stop overfishing if we begin by curbing wasteful fishing subsidies.

I believe it's one of the single greatest actions that can be taken to protect the world's oceans—which is why it's so exciting that others on board joined the cause.

By the end of the voyage, I was able to get 67 participants to sign-on to a letter to the leaders of the G-20 nations. These world leaders have the ability to end the subsidies that are emptying our oceans of the protein that millions of people depend on around the world.

The letter, whose signers include Sylvia Earle, Chevy Chase, Glenn Close and Leonardo DiCaprio, urges G-20 leaders to pledge their support to stop the expansion of fishing subsidy programs and to make a strong outcome in the World Trade Organization's (WTO) fisheries subsidies negotiations a priority.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 75 percent of the world's fisheries are now either overexploited, fully exploited, significantly depleted or recovering from overexploitation. Yet many governments continue to provide huge subsidies—to the tune of $20 billion annually—to their fishing sectors.

The fleets, which are pushed to fish longer, harder and farther away, are overcapacity—as much as 2.5 times what's needed to fish at sustainable levels.

Oceana has been working since 2006 to produce new trade rules from the WTO that effectively control fisheries subsidies. I am hopeful that when the leaders of the G-20 read this letter, they will understand what's at stake, and see that it's in their power to make a change for the oceans and the people who depend on them.

Read more about overfishing:
Overfishing Means Marine Animals Are Starving: Report
How Overfishing Almost Got Capt. Phillips Killed by Pirates
Overfishing is Slowing, But Only in Areas With Good Fisheries Management
Eco-Myth: Humans Have Only Been Overfishing the World's Oceans in Modern Times

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