WEBINAR: Subsidizing extinction: Subsidies, Sustainable Development Goals and the World Trade Organization

March 3, 2022
10:00 to 11:30 am

The ocean and biodiversity support our life, yet both are being degraded by direct (e.g. overexploitation, climate change) and indirect (e.g., unsustainable consumption) drivers. A key policy-related driver of ocean and terrestrial biodiversity degradation is harmful subsidies, i.e., government transfers to an economic sector, such as fishing and oil and gas, that lead to artificially inflated profits, and result in overexploitation and other extractive activities with large environmental impacts.

The environmental, economic, trade, and social effects of harmful subsidies are well- recognised by scientists, policy makers, and the public alike. This recognition is the reason why the elimination of harmful subsidies are stipulated in the Aichi Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is because of these effects that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been mandated by the global community to work with its members towards removing harmful subsidies.

WTO members were supposed to have concluded their ongoing negotiations on removing harmful fisheries subsidies, at a Ministerial Meeting scheduled to be held from November 30 to December 3, 2021. Sadly, the Omicron variant forced a postponement of this important meeting, which has been rescheduled for June 2022, COVID-19 permitting.

In this webinar, we brought together leading experts with a range of expertise in, and perspectives on, harmful subsidies to share their knowledge about and vision for improving the environmental, social, economic, and trade implications of harmful subsidies. The panelists discussed how removing and redirecting harmful subsidies (estimated at $27.5 billion Canadian dollars per year for marine fisheries alone) could support people and the environment at the same time. The webinar also provided a forum to discuss responses and actions that are needed at individual, community, governmental and intergovernmental (e.g., the WTO) levels to address the increasing threats from harmful subsidies with respect to biodiversity and the livelihoods of millions worldwide.


Dr. U. Rashid Sumaila
Professor, UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries
and the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs
Introduction and rationale
Dr. Daniel Skerritt
Postdoctoral Fellow; Fisheries Economics Research Unit
The spatial burden of harmful fisheries subsidies in terms of the sustainability of fisheries worldwide
Dr. Jessica Dempsey
Associate Professor, UBC Department of Geography
Role of subsidies in biodiversity depletion
Dr. Werner Antweiler
Professor, UBC Sauder School of Business
The WTO and Fisheries Subsidies
Isabel Jarrett
Manager, Ending Harmful Fisheries Subsidies
The Pew Charitable Trusts
Turning science into action: 4 building blocks


Dr. Anna Schuhbauer
Postdoctoral Fellow; Fisheries Economics Research Unit
Dr. Charlotte De Fontaubert
Global Lead for the Blue Economy, PROBLUE Program Manager, Environment, Natural Resources & Blue Economy Global Practice, The World Bank


  • Hongsik Kim, PhD student, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries
  • Jade Owen, PhD student, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries

The Video