Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) are areas of the sea, generally extending 200 nautical miles from a country’s coastline, that are reserved to the respective country under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). According to UNCLOS, the coastal countries retain special rights to exploration and use of marine resources, but the water’s surface remains international territory. Some economically important fish stocks pervade the boundaries of multiple countries’ EEZs, which causes tension between the various countries claiming rights to their population.
Based on a request by governments that United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) look into the question of access arrangement in the broader political economy framework with a view to contributing to the discussions and providing analysis on how the issue might be handled in the World Trade Organization (WTO) context, CIEL produced EEZ Fisheries Access Arrangements and the WTO Subsidies Agreement – Legal Analysis and Options for Improved Disciplines.
The December 2007 paper concluded that access agreements do not breach any rules of the WTO’s Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM), but certain fisheries enabled by access agreements may fall within its disciplines. For these cases, the paper contains concrete textual suggestions for improving the ASCM with regards to “access-related” fisheries subsidies. The rules text, used as the basis of negotiations for fisheries subsidies, as well as for anti-dumping and subsidies and countervailing measures, prohibit an array of fisheries subsidies, including subsidies for the construction and repair of fishing vessels used for wild marine capture, for operating costs of those vessels, for port infrastructure or other port facilities related to such fishing.
Working closely with UNEP, CIEL consulted and presented its findings on several occasions to WTO delegations, government officials, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations on several occasions, including the UNEP-ICTSD-WWF workshop on Development and Sustainability in the WTO Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations: Issues and Alternatives, held on 11 May 2006, and at a WWF-UNEP Consultation, held on 7 December 2006.