Protect artisanal fishing | The Nigeria Nation
Artisanal fishing is at the heart of the global fishing economy. In a webinar last week, Nigeria and other members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) discussed the impact of subsidies on the health and sustainability of the blue economy, DANIEL ESSIET reports.
FISH is an important source of food. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has stressed that the small-scale fishing sector is vital for the success and sustainability of the blue economy.
Fifty percent of the world’s seafood, analysts say, is supplied by small-scale fisheries. In addition, they said the supply chain in small-scale fisheries provides livelihoods for millions of women.
But the growth of industrial-scale fishing deployed by advanced countries in West African waters is collapsing and endangering the livelihoods of local fishermen.
Although overfishing threatens the health of the oceans, the WTO has observed that many governments have provided subsidies to their fishing fleets, helping them to fish beyond biologically sustainable levels.
According to the WTO, governments spend $ 22.2 billion a year on overfishing subsidies. These grants, paid to help offset vessel fuel costs, upgrades, port renovations and other expenses, allow industrial fleets to fish further and for longer.
For example, West Africa, recognized as one of the richest fishing grounds in the world for snappers, groupers, sardines, mackerel and shrimp, loses up to $ 1.5 billion in fish per year for the benefit of vessels fishing in protected areas or without appropriate equipment or permits.
Across West Africa, according to the World Economic Forum report, the artisanal fishing sector is a major source of livelihoods and food security.
Significantly, in Nigeria, the report notes, artisanal fishing accounts for 80 percent of the fish consumed and supports the livelihoods of around 24 million people.
The WTO has said the time has come to end harmful subsidies, some of which support illegal fishing.
Speaking at a virtual meeting hosted by the WTO, its Director-General Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that to protect vulnerable people and their livelihoods, it was necessary for trade ministers to discuss new global rules limiting government support to industry.
According to her, government subsidies have encouraged overfishing. She noted that global fish stocks have sharply declined and poor and vulnerable artisanal fishermen have suffered along with ocean ecosystems.
His words: “In 2017, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned that about a third of the world’s fish stocks were overexploited, up from 10% in 1970 and 27% a year. last.
“Despite these disturbing results, governments continue to disburse approximately $ 35 billion in annual fishing subsidies, two-thirds of which goes to commercial fishermen. In doing so, they keep many commercial vessels at sea that would otherwise be economically unviable. “
In negotiating the removal of harmful fisheries subsidies, Dr Okonjo-Iweala noted that WTO members would not only honor past commitments, but would also support other international efforts to address the concerns of fisheries. global commons, from climate change to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday last week, WTO members moved closer to a deal, which would set new rules for the global fishing industry and limit government subsidies that contribute to unsustainable fishing and the depletion of fish. global fish stocks.
Ms Okonjo-Iweala said the meeting of WTO members was a success as they confirmed that they would come to an agreement on the removal of fisheries subsidies.
“Today we were looking for political guidance, political support to move forward and for the first time in 20 years, we have a text that has been approved and blessed by all the ministers and heads of delegation of the 128 members we have. . today, ”Ms. Okonjo-Iweala said at a press conference.
“We couldn’t have wished for a better outcome,” she continued, adding: “When you sit down and look at what we expected from this meeting – political will, support for moving forward, support for move forward on the basis of an agreed text – we have it all today.
Ms Okonjo-Iweala and the chairman of the negotiations, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, announced that WTO members will continue to negotiate to reach an agreement before the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, scheduled for November 30 of this year. Although WTO member countries failed to strike a deal, they paved the way for a deal later this year.
Industry, Trade and Investment Minister Niyi Adebayo called on the WTO to exempt artisanal and small-scale fishermen from its fishing subsidies.
Adebayo expressed Nigeria’s willingness to negotiate on appropriate special and differential treatment provisions for developing and least developed countries.
The minister said in a virtual meeting of the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee: “The federal government has requested the exemption of small-scale and artisanal fishermen from the scope of the discipline on fishing subsidies. currently being negotiated at the World Trade Organization by member countries.
The Minister affirmed Nigeria’s commitment and support for the agreement to ban certain forms of fishing subsidies which have led to the rapid depletion of global marine fish stocks.
He added: “I wish to assure you of Nigeria’s support and commitment to proactively engage with all members towards achieving a balanced outcome in accordance with our mandate to reach an agreement to ban certain forms. of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing; and to eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and to refrain from introducing new such subsidies.