Office of the United States Trade Representative


US Welcomes Environmental NGO Support of Stronger WTO Rules on Fisheries Subsidies

Hong Kong - During his remarks today at a high-level WTO Ministerial environment event, US Trade Representative Rob Portman welcomed the strong support by the presidents of eleven major environmental non-governmental organizations of efforts in the WTO to strengthen rules on fisheries subsidies. The groups say that high levels of global subsidies are contributing to the overfishing of nearly 75 percent of the world's fish stocks and the resulting disruption of marine ecosystems worldwide.

"I welcome the support we have received from environmental groups on our efforts to curb fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing, and I am pleased that they are helping to raise the visibility of this issue in the global community," said Ambassador Portman. "Stronger rules to curb these subsidies will be a very significant accomplishment for the WTO in the Doha Development Agenda."

"These negotiations on fisheries are ground breaking. For the first time, the WTO is addressing a problem with direct and immediate consequences not only for trade but also for the marine environment and sustainable development. The high levels of subsidies are part of the reason that nearly 75% of fish stock are at risk. The need for action is clear."  Ambassador Portman has worked closely with several of the environmental groups to advance the fisheries subsidies negotiations. He made the remarks at an event sponsored by the United Nations Environmental Programme and World Wildlife Fund-International, and attended by other leading ministers, to highlight the importance of negotiations in helping to curb overfishing while promoting trade and sustainable development.

Signatories to the letter include Oceana, the Center for International Environmental Law, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Defense, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife Federation, the Ocean Conservancy, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the World Wildlife Fund. The letter follows other recent letters from the World Wildlife Fund and the Environmental Working Group expressing support for the United States' efforts.


According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 75% of the world's fish stocks are either overexploited, fully exploited, depleted or recovering depletion, while global subsidy levels are estimated at between $10-15 billion annually - approximately 20-25% of the $56 billion commercial trade in fish.

The United States has been a leader in pressing for stronger rules, including a prohibition on the most harmful subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing. The United States is working closely with a number of developed and developing countries to advance the negotiations, including Australia, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Iceland, New Zealand and Peru. Negotiations on fisheries subsidies are taking place in the Negotiating Group on Rules.

Click here for a copy of the letter.

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