Brussels, Belgium — The European Union approved a historic agreement banning harmful fisheries subsidies on Thursday, joining a small group of countries that include the United States.
After more than two decades of negotiations towards banning subsidies that encourage overfishing and threaten the sustainability fish stocks worldwide, a deal, albeit watered down, was finally sealed last June.
Canada and the United Arab Emirates accepted the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement earlier this month, following the United States in April.
Iceland, the Seychelles, Singapore and Switzerland have also formally accepted the deal.
“This is a very positive step for sustainable development and a very positive step forward by the EU. I really hope that more WTO members will follow,” Swedish Trade Minister Johan Forssell told reporters in Brussels.
“In the next WTO ministerial (conference), we should be discussing the next steps on fisheries subsidies,” the EU’s commissioner for trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, said after a meeting of EU trade ministers in the Belgian capital.
The agreement bans subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, with a two-year exemption for developing countries within their exclusive economic zones, or 200 nautical miles.
It also prohibits subsidies linked to overfished stocks, with a two-year reprieve for poorer nations.
The deal comes into force once two-thirds of WTO’s 164 members formally approve it.