Origin and Nature Overfishing is a major environmentalhazard influencing the ecological balance of the oceans and already resultsinto the extermination of entire fish populations. The evidence shows that onlyin 2017 worldwide 153 million tons of fish has been eaten (c.f.
de.statisa.com). As fish is a food source since thousands of years it wasobserved, that the commercialisation and the use of huge trawler caused majordamage on fish population, which decreased since 1950 till date around 90%(c.f. Streckbach, 2012). For 1,2 billion people fish is the daily food sourceand provides livelihood, but more often (and especially in developingcountries) fisherman come back with empty nets or a small yield (c.f.
ibid). Eventhe trial to protect endangered population by raising fish in aquaculture isonly partially helpful, as e.g. to produce 1kg of raised salmon 5kg of wildcaught fish must be fed. Fish is just transformed into another type of fishwithout creating more fish (c.f. ibid.
). To please the demandfor fish like e.g. tuna the industrial fishery uses methods like trawling withnets in a size of four soccer playgrounds, where around 13 jumbo jets couldeasily have place in or as in reality: 500 tons of fish. Furthermore, yearly1,4 billion hooks with again 1,4 billion smaller lures are dropped into theoceans.
The bycatch, which is thrown dead or nearly dead back in the ocean, isaccepted as fishing in high quantity is certainly profitable. For example, anaverage shrimper throws 90% of its catch back in the water. That means, thatfor 1kg of shrimps 9kg of other marine animals get killed (c.f.
ibid.).The looting of theoceans is a global concern affecting whole humanity. Thereby a global fisherypolicy is required. As the WWF complains although that the fisherypolicy of the European Union was reformed in 2013 as the European waters hadbeen overfished dramatically, the problem only got “outsourced” as the trawlerstarted looting the ocean sides nearby developing countries like west Africa anddestroyed the livelihood of many fisherman there (c.f. wwf.
de, 2016).A rethinking and changein the mindset of the consumer is as important as global rules and policiesregarding fishery for the benefit of the fish population, the ecologicalbalance and the trade who’s making its livelihood by it. An institutionpowerful enough to set up rules and regulations for the protection of theoceans and the worldwide trade of fish is required. Fortunately, after therecession after World War II the GATT – GeneralAgreement on Tariffs and Trade was founded to liberalize worlds trade.Certified rules and regulations for world trade, nowadays verified by the WorldTrade Organization (WTO) founded in 1995, where negotiated and built a base forgoods traffic (c.f. wirtschaftslexikon.gabler.
de). The will for suchmultilateral agreements is a chance to find a balance and create rules,regulations and policies for the benefit of all shareholders. In the following thehistory of the GATT and its role in Overfishing will be explained andsummarized. GATT – General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade The history of GATTstarts in 1946 and is based on the efforts of the USA who sought theliberalization of world trade after the recession period due to the rising protectionismafter the global economic crisis in 1930 and World War II. The states suggestedthe foundation of an International Trade Organization (ITO) and thecodification of a world trade charter, known as Havana Charter. Due tonegotiations in London (1946) and Genf (1947) the trade policies of the HavanaCharter got partly ratified and accepted in October 1947 by 23 states andentered into force as from 01.01.
1948 (c.f. wirtschaftslexikon.gabler.de).
Asthe USA did not ratify the whole Havana Charter, the GATT – the GeneralAgreement on Tariffs and Trade was the only multilateral treaty till 1994. Thepurpose was to create an international world trade order.The participants of theGATT have equal rights and normally meet on yearly basis to assemble and ratifynew proposals and policies. The most remarkable assembly was probably theUruguay Round in April 1994 in Marrakech. After seven years of negotiation theresults of the GATT were ratified and signed by 111 countries and the beforeonly provisional GATT was turned into the World Trade Organization (WTO), whichis described as milestone of multilateralism (c.f. ibid.).
The last round wasthe so-called Doha Round in 2005 were mainly the integration of agroeconomicwas discussed. Vision of the GATT The goal of the GATT isthe improvement of economic status, facilitation of labour and economic growththrough international exchange of goods. Therefore, collective tariff reductionon the base of the so called most-favourednation clause was implemented to guaranty a reciprocal (equal)liberalization. The non-discrimination of foreign products enabled an entry toglobal trade. Tariff cuts from 33% to 100% were achieved and non-traffic tradebarriers got reduced (c.f. ibid.).
Protection of Developing Countries In 1965 part IV of theGATT was issued to deal with Trade andDevelopment as a Panel of Experts observed a “failure of the trade of lessdeveloped countries to develop as rapidly as that of industrialized countries,excessive short-term fluctuations in prices of primary products, and widespreadresort to agricultural protection” (wto.org). The so-called generalised system of preferences wasestablished which imposed trade preferences from the industrial countriestowards the developing countries. (c.
f. wirtschaftlexikon.gabler.de) Exceptions from GATT – Problems with the fish industry Apart from severalsituations, where protectionism is allowed – due to reasons of public order orwelfare or national security – The worlds trade in agricultural products wasexcluded from the GATT policies, even though the participating countries couldagree on a global-contingent for the agricultural-sector to protect thedomestic production as per the Agreement on Agriculture of the Uruguay Round(c.f.
ibid.).However, the Roundexcluded fishery products from its coverage. Thereby fishery products are noteven ratified as agricultural products and do not enjoy any specialisedinternational rules or policies. Fish and fishery products are treated by thegeneral rules of GATT/WTO and can be traded as non-agricultural products, likeindustrial products (c.f.
fao.org).The need of negotiatingrules and policies for the fishery sector is understood very well, as disputesregarding fishery products are increasing. Therefore, the Committee on Tradeand Environment (CTE) of the WTO is debating for solutions like proper subsidiesand other aspects regarding fishery in the multinational trade negotiation(MTN) since 1999. (c.f.
ibid.).”The importance ofinternational trade in fishery products hardly needs to be emphasized. Fish andfishery products represent a category of food products which have the highestshare in international trade among foods. At the same time, trade in theseproducts is a major source of foreign exchange earnings of the developingcountries in particular. This group of countries accounts for roughly half ofthe fishery products traded internationally.” (fao.org).
Case-study: the Canadian albacore In 1982 an incidence betweenUSA and Canada regarding fishery caused a case were the Art. XX (g) GATT General Exceptions relating to theconservation of exhaustible natural resources was considered and executed. The USA imposed animport ban on Canadian albacore tuna. It so happened, that 19 US fisher boatsgot confiscated and some fishermen got arrested by the Canadian authorities, asthey were fishing in a 200-mile zone, that Canada claimed as its territory, notofficially recognised by the USA authorities. After one year the USA stoppedthe import ban, as they negotiated an agreement for entering the zone withCanada.The USA argued that theimport ban was necessary due to Art. XX (g) GATT, as the albacore is anoverfished and endangered natural resource.
Nevertheless, Canada argued thatthe embargo was ineligible and due to the incidence of confiscation / arrestingthe US boats and fishermen. The argumentation of the states was unacceptableand only to illegally justify the embargo.However, as the USA andCanada could agree on rules for the 200-miles zone the embargo was finished.Still Canada argued that it was improper and got right by the dealing Panel,that an import ban by Art. XX (g) GATT was not justified.
(c.f. Thiedemann, p.
41ff). Current situation and lessons learned As already explained inthe introduction the industrial fishery is a major hazard due to the ecologicalbalance, the population of entire arts and to human mankind. Unfortunately, GATTfailed in issuing specialised rules, regulations and policies regarding fishindustry and fishery products. However, the trade of those products is coveredby the general GATT rules as shown in the case-study above. But these ruleshave been more abused for political reasons, less than for a pressure releaseon endangered fish sort. Policies in trade playa critical role in regulating production methods and finally affecting the useof natural resources.
Regulations on subsidies for example in the EU and alsoin several developing countries play a determining role in production decisions,that mostly result in unsustainable fishing practices and overfishing (c.f. E15Expert Group, p.19f). The liberalization and tariff reductions enhanced thefishery sector in global markets, causing on the one hand the problem ofoverfishing, as global demand has an global market, but on the other handinstitutions like the GATT / WTO have the opportunity to negotiate onregulations and fishing rates to protect the marine life (c.f.
ibid.).Yet, trade unions likethe EU have issued regulations for the catch of bluefin tuna. A sort highlyendangered to become extinct. Scientist proposed a catching rate of 10.000 tonsto give a valid chance of recovery of the exhausted population.
The EU adopteda rate of 29.500 tons yearly. However, the bluefin tuna industry catches 61.000tons of tuna even though regulations are existing (c.f. Streckbach, 2012).
Greenpeace criticises the decision of the EU hardly, as even the previous stopof the bluefin tuna season comes to late for the 20% of the rest population incomparison to the population 20 years ago. Due to Greenpeace the EU wasted itchance to protest against a new catching rate at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas – ICCAT,that is assigning the fishing quota (c.f.
greenpeace.de, 2010). Recommendations for Future An organization likethe WTO must come with a global solution for regulations and needs propermethods of punishing any country, that is not going concern with that rules.Time has shown that the GATT regulations are not wide enough and notspecialized enough to face the overfishing issue. The absence of mandatoryrules and policies allows producing practices, which can serve the short-rundemand on fish and fishery products, but will result in mid- and long-run intoa catastrophe of marine life and all its dependent.
Its fallacious to belief, that from one day to another all people willturn to vegetarians or vegans, but as the fish industry is also a market, eachconsumer must be aware of the origin also! If enough consumers demand fish fromsustainable resources and origins, then there is a true chance for recovery ofendangered fish population. Organizations like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certify sustainable fishproduction and are one link between the industry and the consumer, who can makehelp against overfishing also by his or her buying decision (c.f. wwf.de,2016).