This has long been the mantra of the OECD Fisheries’ Committee and was confirmed at a press briefing by OECD fisheries experts in March to mark the launch of a new report, Liberalising Fisheries Markets: Scopes and Effects. The OECD maintains that both developed and developing countries stand to benefit from additional tariff and subsidy reductions, but cautions governments to ensure that their trade and fisheries management policies are mutually supportive.
While much progress has already been made in opening up fisheries markets – average import tariff rates imposed by developed countries dropped by 26% during the last two decades – more reductions still need to be made. In many OECD countries, for instance, prohibitive tariffs exist to protect processing industries, alongside other measures that essentially distort or hinder trade, including widespread government subsidies, which can result not only in unnecessarily large fishing fleets, but an artificial insulation of the industry from commercial realities.
There is a greater need for measures to ensure the sustainability of the fisheries market, as the report points out that many OECD countries do not effectively constrain catch and the size of fishing fleets. While this may produce a short term increase in production and capacity, ultimately, it will serve only to weaken the industry by irresponsibly depleting already endangered fish stocks.
©OECD Observer No 237, May 2003