The Environment and Trade Hub is actively engaged in providing sustainable and policy solutions to several important issues relating to trade and its fundamental role in sustainable development. Among other areas, the Environment and Trade Hub continues to engage in global policy reform surrounding harmful fisheries subsidies.

Fishing is one of the oldest economic activities carried out by humans and remains to this day a vital source of income for many countries. To this day, fisheries often account between 5 and 10 percent of GDP and exports for many Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Therefore, it is not surprising to see that fish is the most traded animal protein commodity. It is a particularly important source of nutrition and protein for coastal populations in addition to being one of their main source of income.

With the acceleration of globalization, a growing global population and the increase in the demand for food products and subsequently of trade, un-stainable fisheries practices have also amplified. Subsequently according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, as of 2013, about 31.4% of fish stocks were being fished at biologically unsustainable levels – a number that is likely to grow in the coming years. This is likely to result in drastic loss of fish population.

The importance of conserving marine resources and addressing the issue of unsustainable fishing practices has been recognized by the UN and is reflected in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, which strives to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development’. The Environment and Trade Hub has a key role to play in helping countries to deliver upon SDG 14, particularly as related to trade-related targets and indicators including targets 14.4 (regulating illegal unregulated or unreported - IUU - fishing activities), 14.6 (prohibiting certain forms of fisheries subsidies) and 14.b (market access for small-scale artisanal fishers).

The Environment and Trade Hub, representing UN Environment, has played a role in several high-level events related to the trade-related aspects of SDG 14. In July 2016, UN Environment, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) made an international call to the Member States and the International Community to move forward and deliver on trade-related targets in SDG 14. To date, 91 countries, 4 intergovernmental organizations, and 15 civil society groups have declared their support for a global roadmap to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies by 2020.

The Environment and Trade Hub has also co-organized several key events, including a side event on reforming fisheries subsidies at the high-profile Oceans Conference in New York in June 2017 where UN Environment, alongside FAO and UNCTAD, launched a new voluntary commitment to provide joint policy advice and technical support to countries. In preparation, UN Environment, UNCTAD, FAO and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP) Secretariat co-organized a forum on the trade-related aspects of SDG 14 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva in March. The event set the stage for the Oceans Conference as well as the forthcoming Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), to be held in Buenos Aires in December 2017. 

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