Environment Minister Amy Adams will seek an end to harmful subsidies for fishing fleets at the Rio+20 summit this week in a bid to cut down on overfishing.

The minister leads a New Zealand delegation which left today to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the United Nations conference on sustainable development.

She said New Zealand did not have a big voice at the meeting of 200 countries, but she hoped to contribute to practical ideas that were relevant to the Pacific.

"New Zealand wants all the countries at Rio+20 to commit to eliminating harmful fisheries subsidies. These contribute to overfishing and to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. They also create perverse economic incentives that affect the long-term sustainability of the world's fisheries."


Tens of billions of dollars in subsidies are pumped into the global fishing industry each year, creating a fleet which is far too large to sustainably fish the oceans.

Ms Adams said she would also seek a commitment to phase out "inefficient" fossil fuel subsidies used by some countries.

"If we are successful, this could reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by up to 10 per cent by 2050.

Ms Adams' delegation includes officials from Ministry for the Environment, Primary Industries and Foreign Affairs and trade, and three representatives from industry, iwi and the non-government sector.

The conference marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations meeting, when leaders set a global agenda for protecting the environment.

A report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released before the summit said New Zealand had achieved little in the last two decades, with most environmental indicators worsening in that time.