Perverse subsidies including fuel tax rebates lead to overfishing though a combination of overcapacity and excess fishing effort. The current overfishing trend has depleted certain key commercial fisheries with implications for future food security, particularly in regions dependent on fish protein. Over the course of the past four decades, there have been a number of multilateral efforts to eliminate the subsidies including environmental treaties, environmental targets, and trade negotiations. None of these attempts and a global cooperative response have achieved a reduction in perverse subsidies. This Essay proposes the adoption of unilateral trade measures or a set of “Friends of the Fish” trade measures to eliminate perverse subsidies. As explained in the Essay, parties that might oppose these trade measures would be unlikely to prevail in a dispute settlement based on previous decisions from the World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body involving conservation of natural resources. Further, although unilateralism may not be optimal, it may be sufficient to create changes in the subsidization practices as states who continue to subsidize fishing fleets lose access to important trading markets.

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