Global fish stocks are in crisis with a third of global stocks already being fished beyond their sustainable levels
Samoa has not taken a clear stance on proposed fisheries subsidies by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) but a regional watchdog warns they could undermine Samoa’s conservation and management measures.
The watchdog group Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG), based in Fiji, also says that the proposals “fail to ensure that those responsible for overfishing will shoulder the burden of the prohibitions.”
The most recent negotiations regarding fisheries subsidies at the WTO took place on Thursday and Friday last week, said PANG Trade Justice Campaigner Adam Wolfenden in an e-mail.
The subsidies were raised during negotiations last week.
The Samoa Observer contacted via e-mail two Government ministries to find out what Samoa’s concerns are in regard to fisheries subsidies and the recent WTO talks.
The WTO seeks to come to an agreement on banning certain types of subsidies for fisheries.
A reply received from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), Tilafono David Hunter referred the Observer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT.)
“Please note that the lead ministry of our Government that handles WTO issues affecting the trade of our agricultural and fisheries products is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT). I would prefer you contact them with regards to your queries,” Tilafono wrote.
An e-mail sent to CEO of MFAT, Noumea Peseta Simi, did not receive a reply.
In “Protecting the Problem – Fisheries subsidies and the World Trade Organisation”, an opinion piece authored by PANG. Campaigner Wolfenden and Ranja Sengupta of the non-profit Third World Network (TWN) the writers caution against certain proposals which they say re-interpret Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.6.
The Sustainable Development Goal 14.6 has the target to “prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing and eliminate subsidies that contribute to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing” whilst ensuring “appropriate and effective special and differential treatment (SDT) for developing and least-developed countries should be an integral part” of negotiations,” they state.
“This mandate however is being re-interpreted within the WTO to protect the major subsidisers whilst targeting any subsidies by developing or least-developed countries,” the article continues.
The SDG mandate implicitly calls for developed countries to take responsibility for past extraction of the marine resources and take on strong commitments to ensure that any disciplines on fisheries subsidies actually meets the objective it was set out for[…] It is only fair that richer countries with larger-scale and industrial fishing take on higher commitments. Yet despite this situation, the biggest subsidisers are being gifted a permanent carve-out under the current proposals meaning those most responsible are shouldering the least burden.”
They say the WTO talks come at a time when global fish stocks are in crisis with a third of global stocks already being fished beyond their sustainable levels.
PANG and TWN say it is “time for developing countries to come together in solidarity and articulate a strong demand from rich countries to meet their responsibilities; the latter must not commit to anything less.”
Global fisheries subsidies were at USD $35.4 billion in 2018, of which capacity-enhancing subsidies are USD $22.2 billion, according to information published in 2019 in Science Direct.
The top five subsidising political entities are China, the European Union, the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan. They contribute 58 percent or USD$20.5 billion) of the total estimated subsidy, reports Science Direct.
There are 164 members of the WTO Samoa joined the WTO in May of 2012.