FishNet Alliance, a network of fishers engaged in and promoting sustainable fishing in line with ecosystem limits, has raised the alarm over the harm being done by unregulated fishing around Africa’s waters due in large part to harmful fishing subsidies.
According to the Alliance, not only has massive plundering of fisheries on the continent’s waters severely impacted the economy of artisanal fishers in the region, it is also affecting the nutrition of the peoples.
“The majority of our peoples depend on fishes for animal protein and for livelihoods.
“The WTO should do the needful and keep the exploitative sharks at bay,” said Stephen Oduware, coordinator of the FishNet Alliance.
Explaining what who and what were responsible for overfishing, overcapacity, by-catches, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, the Alliance cited a 2018 report that put what 10 countries spent on harmful fishing subsidies at over $15.3 billion.
The countries were China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, the U.S.A., Thailand, Taiwan, Spain, Indonesia and Norway.
Furthermore, the report analysed the expenditure of these harmful fishing subsidies used by these 10 nations.
The expenditures came to 60% ($9.2 billion) for domestic fishing, 35% ($5.4 billion) for travelling long distances to fish in the waters of 116 other nations, and five percent ($800 million) for fishing in the high seas, which are part of the ocean beyond any nation’s jurisdiction.
The Alliance noted that as the World Trade ministers meet to negotiate the fisheries subsidies, it is instructive to note that the negotiating group rules contained in the revised draft consolidated Chair text, are set to chase the already vulnerable small scale/artisanal fishers (who are victims of the operations of industrial fishers) in developing and least developed countries, out of business when the proposed two years exemption for subsidies elapses.
“Also,” FishNet Alliance noted, “the setting of 12 nautical miles from baseline as the limit of exemption for developing and least developed countries of low income, resource-poor and livelihood fishing or fishing-related activities, is unacceptable.
“The articles in the negotiating group rules seem to be well crafted in a sinister and conspiratorial fashion to allow for business as usual for industrial fishers as long as they can prove that there are some sets of imaginary, unproven and untested systems in place to maintain fish stock(s) at a biologically sustainable level— a permanent loophole for aggressive and mindless fishing regime to the detriment of communities of artisanal fishers.
“There is need for the World Trade Organisation, WTO, to transparently and aggressively negotiate on the basis of the root causes and drivers of overfishing and other related issues.
“They should go after corporate and vested interests doling out billions of dollars as subsidies for dangerous fishing expeditions, especially harmful fishing practices within and outside their national jurisdiction.”
FishNet Alliance also demands that there should be synergy between WTO and other relevant international instruments to check these offshore trades that seek only to commodify water bodies at the detriment of the rich and diverse aquatic ecosystems.
It added that “Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.6 prohibits certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, and eliminates subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
“FishNet Alliance aligns with the intent of SDG 14.6 to have nations refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognising that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiation.
“The WTO should garner supports and incentives for small scale/artisanal fishers in developing and least developed countries and encourage their local community-driven conservation efforts.”