United Nations
Sustainable Trade in Fisheries - Assisting Member States to Implement Effective, Inclusive and Sustainable Policies
by UNCTAD/FAO/UN Environment (Government)
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 of the 2030 Agenda commits UN Member States to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. Under this Goal, three targets explicitly focus on the trade-related aspects of fisheries: Target 4 (fight against Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, fish stocks management and restoration), Target 6 (phasing out certain fisheries subsidies) and Target b (access to markets and resources by small scale and artisanal fishermen).

These SDG 14 targets represent a comprehensive avenue for addressing unsustainable practices in the fisheries sector. Among the targets, the issue of addressing and removing harmful fisheries subsidies has been a complicated and thorny one. For the majority of fisheries subsidies, there is a strong correlation with overcapacity and overfishing. Addressing harmful fisheries subsidies is not a stand-alone issue and a holistic approach is necessary in order to advance sustainability and development. The "Call for Action" of the UN Ocean Conference will set a new direction in the implementation of SDG 14, incorporating new voluntary commitments and allowing for the development of new multistakeholder partnerships.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UN Environment) have a key role to play in the implementation of these trade-related targets. Through the Joint Statement made during the 14th session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, titled Regulating Fisheries Subsidies must be an integral part of the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the three agencies made a commitment to support member states efforts to meet SDG Target 14.6, by identifying four minimum outcomes:

Accurate, additional, practical and feasible provisions for the transparent notification of all relevant fisheries subsidies;
Clear prohibition of subsidies that contribute to over-fishing and overcapacity, and those that undermine sustainable development, food and nutritional security, jeopardizing the livelihoods of coastal populations;
Adequate and appropriate instruments and tools to deter introduction of new harmful subsidies; and
Special attention and treatment to developing countries, in particular, the least developed ones and Small Island Development States (SIDS).

Trade and trade-policies can facilitate the transition to sustainable ocean-based economies by increasing resource efficiency, improving the environment, enhancing inclusiveness and creating new green business opportunities. In the context of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other relevant international instruments, UNCTAD, FAO and UN Environment stand ready to work with countries and donors to provide capacity building and technical assistance on fisheries, trade, environment and development. The convening power and expertise of the three agencies provide a unique differential in supporting countries to progress towards sustainable development, by incorporating more sustainable trade policies, and to deliver upon the aforementioned targets, particularly 14.6.

By facilitating a comprehensive understanding of the trade-related aspects of SDG 14, this joint effort aims to improve countries capacity to shift towards more resource efficient and sustainable pathways. It will support countries to better position themselves within relevant trade negotiations and to undertake internal policy and regulatory reform aligned with SDG 14 targets.
Progress reports
By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics
Type of commitment
  • Compliance, monitoring and enforcement
  • Science-based fisheries management plans
  • Ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF)
  • Reduction of fisheries by-catch and product waste/losses
  • Eco-labelling, traceability, certification programmes
  • Market-based instruments (Individually Traded Quotas, Vessel Day Schemes, etc.)
  • Other (please specify): raise awareness of the comprehensive legal and policy framework for fisheries
By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation
Type of commitment
  • Removal or reduction of harmful fisheries subsidies
  • information relating to harmful subsidies
Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets
Type of commitment
  • Legal/policy/institutional measures
  • Access to market-based instruments
  • Transfer of fishing technology
  • Access to coastal fishing grounds
  • Access and capacity building for eco-labelling and traceability systems
  • Community empowerment for fisheries management
  • Other (please specify): to raise awareness of the comprehensive legal and policy framework for fisheries
Delivery of technical assistance to member states on demand and subject to availability of extra-budgetary resources on issues related to national fisheries governance and management, market access and trade-related aspects, including subsidies (SDG 14.4, 14.6, and 14 b), aiming to foster effective linkages between national policies, relevant international instruments and the regulatory framework in the area of international trade, environment, and global fisheries governance.
Partnership building to support the above-mentioned technical assistance and capacity building activities. (SDG 14.4, 14.6 and 14 b).
Awareness raising and dissemination of technical information through policy dialogues on trade and fisheries policy, highlighting the environment and development aspects, particularly in relation to subsidies (SDG 14.4, 14.6 and 14 b).
Other, please specify
Legal and policy advice
Staff / Technical expertise
Research and dialogue building
Basic information
Time-frame: 09 June 2017 - 31 December 2020
UNCTAD FAO UN Environment
Ocean Basins
  • Global
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
Contact information
David Vivas Eugui, Legal Officer, david.vivaseugui@unctad.org, 00 41 917 56 42
Other SDGs
United Nations