On July 15, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade ministers met for a virtual ministerial meeting to discuss the ongoing negotiations on fishery subsidies. The negotiations, mandated by Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) focused on the key issues relating to subsidies for overfishing and overcapacity, overfished stocks, and illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

The context of the negotiations provided permanent loop holes for big subsidisers while cutting off the ability of developing countries to advance domestic fishing industries to fish within their own waters.

Civil society organisations from around the world called on trade ministers to ensure that negotiations on fishery subsidies at the WTO did not undermine development aspirations of small-scale fishing communities and developing countries but instead target those who have been historically responsible for the state of global overfishing.

Marthin Hadiwinata, National Coordinator of Marine and Ecology Justice based in Indonesia stated, “the subsidy prohibition that will be set by the WTO must not limit archipelagic countries to provide subsidies to small-scale fisherfolk both in fishing activities in archipelagic waters and across territorial water boundaries. Because being a small-scale fisherperson is not only an economic profession, but it is a culture and tradition that has been passed down for generations.”

Speaking on behalf of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP), representing over 10 million fisherfolk in 23 countries around the world, Naseegh Jaffer, from Masifundise, and also former General Secretary of WFFP said, “how can subsidies for small-scale fishers or what the WTO calls low-income, resource-poor fishers doing livelihood fishing in developing countries be time-bound? We do not stop being low-income and resource-poor within a span of two to five years, but this is what the WTO is planning to allow us under its three pillars of negotiations. On the other hand, the large, subsidising nations are extracting permanent concessions for themselves”.


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