Recommendation 5: International – fishery subsidies

Direct the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Secretaries of State and Commerce to pursue international commitments to eliminate fisheries subsidies that contribute to excess fishing capacity, overfishing, and IUU fishing by 2020.


While some fisheries subsidies provide important benefits like supporting fisheries research and conservation, subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity are one of the main drivers of unsustainable levels of fishing. Such subsidies also undermine the effectiveness of fisheries management regimes and can contribute to IUU fishing. Global fisheries subsidies were estimated at approximately $35 billion in 2009, of which approximately $20 billion consisted of capacity-enhancing subsidies.

The United States has long been a global leader and advocate in support of disciplines on harmful fisheries subsidies, and the United States has long identified disciplines on fisheries subsidies as a key area in which trade agreements can contribute to environmental conservation and sustainable development. Since 2001, as part of the Doha Round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, the United States has pursued commitments to limit harmful fisheries subsidies and provide greater transparency for fisheries subsidies. The United States will continue to seek and support multilateral commitments in the WTO on fisheries subsidies. In the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum the United States is promoting transparency in fisheries subsidies and their ultimate elimination, as reflected in the 2014 Xiamen Declaration of the APEC Ocean-Related Ministerial Meeting. The United States is also pursuing ambitious commitments to discipline harmful fisheries subsidies in our ongoing free trade agreement negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement with 11 other Asia-Pacific countries and a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) agreement with the European Union.

Implementation Steps

To implement this recommendation, USTR, along with the Departments of State and Commerce and other relevant agencies, will continue to pursue meaningful commitments to discipline harmful fisheries subsidies and promote greater transparency of fisheries subsidies. Specific steps include:

  • In 2015, conclude negotiations on the TPP environment chapter, including commitments on some of the most harmful fisheries subsidies, such as those linked to IUU fishing, and to enhance transparency and reporting requirements for fisheries subsidies programs. Seek Congressional approval for the TPP agreement and seek to put the agreement into force as quickly as possible. Lead Agency: USTR Other Agencies Involved: Coordination with relevant agencies, as appropriate.

  • In 2015, seek, with the European Union, proposals to discipline harmful fisheries subsidies, and to enhance transparency and reporting requirements for fisheries subsidies in the T-TIP agreement. Seek to conclude negotiations with a robust outcome on fisheries subsidies as soon as possible, and prepare for Congressional consideration and subsequent entry into force of the T-TIP agreement. Lead agency: USTR Other Agencies involved: Coordination with relevant agencies, as appropriate.

  • In 2015–2016, continue to pursue commitments in the WTO rules negotiations to discipline harmful fisheries subsidies and provide greater transparency for fisheries subsidies. Seek to ensure other WTO Members are more transparent in the notification of their fisheries subsidies. Lead Agency: USTR Other Agencies Involved: Coordination with relevant agencies, as appropriate.

  • In 2015–2016, work to complete and release an updated study reporting on the nature and extent of fisheries subsidies provided by APEC economies, and pursue regional commitments to enhance transparency and efforts to reform fisheries subsidies programs. Lead Agencies: USTR, Department of State Other Agencies Involved: Coordination with relevant agencies, as appropriate, including the Department of Commerce.

  • When Chile hosts the second Our Ocean Conference in 2015, seek to build on the outcomes of Secretary Kerry’s Our Ocean Conference, including by seeking a commitment not to provide subsidies linked to IUU fishing. Lead Agencies: USTR, Departments of State and Commerce Other Agencies Involved: Coordination with other relevant agencies, as appropriate.

400 tons of Chilean jack mackerel (Trachurus murphyi) are caught by a Chilean purse seiner off of Peru. Photo Credit: NOAA, 1997

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