tBrief #04 – A 20-year struggle: Transparency in subsidies to the fisheries sector

Subsidies have become one of the most controversial subjects in debates on fisheries reforms. Perhaps more than any other single factor, subsidies are seen as the source of a range of problems, such as overfishing, illegal fishing and unfair benefit-sharing.

In 2001 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed on a mandate to develop new rules for disciplining fisheries subsidies. These rules would be aimed specifically at subsidies that directly cause overfishing and overcapacity in the fisheries sector. Yet, 20 years on, this mandate has still not been fulfilled.

This week, WTO members are continuing negotiations to curb harmful fisheries subsidies. As time is running out to secure an agreement by the end of this year, as stated in SDG target 14.6, our fourth “transparency Brief” (or tBrief for short) outlines the challenges of improving transparency in subsidies to the fisheries sector. Technical disagreements on the interpretation of key terms, as well as the extent of special treatment for developing countries, have hindered the negotiations. But beyond this, many nations appear reluctant to open their fisheries policies up to external scrutiny and potential disciplining.

We hope you will find this edition of our tBrief series interesting and stimulating. Please also send us your feedback and ideas for future editions to info@fiti.global.

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This publication is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.