Shared Stocks and Fisheries Subsidies Disciplines / by Francisco Blaha

A recent information note* (09/2017) by R. Sumaila and the good people of sets out how the distinction between shared and non-shared fish stocks has been drawn in the academic literature and what the potential implications are of such distinctions within the context of subsidy disciplines and multilateral fisheries subsidies negotiations at the World Trade Organization.

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The paper (download) contributes by setting out how the distinction between shared and non-shared stocks has been drawn in the academic literature and what the potential implications are of such distinctions within the context of subsidy disciplines. The specific objectives of this information note are as follows:

  1. to explain succinctly how shared fish stocks are identified in the technical literature, international instruments (including UNCLOS), and the author’s own recent work;
  2. using the author’s own method of identifying shared stocks, to explain the share of fisheries catch that is caught in shared fisheries and the landed value of this catch; and
  3. to discuss briefly the likely implications of using the distinction of shared and non-shared to apply subsidy disciplines to shared fish stocks.

Go for the original for all the insides, yet the conclusion pasted below reads 

Several proposals in the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations attempt to draw, for different purposes, a distinction between domestic fishing of resources under a coastal state’s jurisdiction, and fishing of shared resources, particularly in areas beyond national jurisdiction. This author and his colleagues have suggested drawing a similar distinction in order to align incentives for international cooperation with international resources.

The definition of which stocks are shared is clear. Our research builds on this definition and uses current knowledge about the behaviour of fish species to estimate which species are in fact “shared” and, 8 Shared stocks and fisheries subsidies disciplines September 2017 thence, what proportion of fish catch and landed value comes from these shared species. The limitations of current knowledge, however, mean that this approach would be difficult to implement directly in the context of subsidy negotiations. However, our research does have several implications that negotiators could consider.

Overall, it is clear that a substantial portion of global catch comes from shared stocks, which means that there is a strong argument for international cooperation to limit subsidies that could lead to the overfishing of shared stocks, particularly those that are not under the responsibility of any national jurisdiction. Further, there are regions of the world where many fish stocks are shared; as such, the rationale for collective action to limit subsidies that could lead to overfishing of those stocks is particularly high. It also appears that some countries are more heavily involved in fishing of shared stocks, so they arguably have a duty to ensure they are not contributing, via subsidies, to the depletion of those stocks.

Finally, there are certain species that are “shared” far more heavily than other species, in the sense that a large number of countries exploit them; it is suggested that governments make a particular effort to ensure that subsidies provided to their fisheries are not directed to the exploitation of these species.

*Citation: Sumaila, U. Rashid. 2017. Shared Stocks and Fisheries Subsidies Disciplines: Definitions, Catches, and Revenues. Information Note. Geneva: International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD).