Fishing in territorial waters: India against time limit on subsidy

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on June 06, 2021

India’s argument is that a cut in subsidies should be based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle   -  The Hindu

‘Low income fisheries does not contribute to illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing‘

India is against the proposed time limit on the subsidy ban exemption for low income fishers operating in territorial waters suggested in the draft text circulated by the chair of the negotiations committee on rules (fisheries subsidies) at the WTO.

“India argued that the subsidy ban was primarily to check IUU (illegal, unreported, unregulated) fishing. Since poor fishers in territorial waters (within 12 nautical miles of the shore) do not have a significant contribution to IUU fishing, the exemption should not be time-bound,” a Geneva-based trade official told BusinessLine.

WTO members have intensified efforts to narrow differences on how to curb harmful fisheries subsidies with the aim to sign an agreement at the Twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva this year beginning November 30.

‘Eliminating subsidies’

Based on the mandate from MC11 and UN Sustainable Development goals, negotiators in the WTO were given the task of securing an agreement on disciplines to eliminate subsidies for IUU fishing and to prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, with special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries integral to the negotiations.

Fisheries subsidies to be eliminated include many given by India such as subsidies to cover costs of fuel, modern fishing gear and fishing nets. India also has some welfare schemes which include providing monetary support to fishers during the monsoon season, when there is a ban on fishing, for multiple purposes.

“It is imperative that such subsidies for Indian fishers should continue as they are the very minimum that are needed to ensure that they are able to sustain their livelihood. If they are withdrawn, many fishers will be reduced to a state of poverty,” another official said.

The chair of the negotiating group on rules (fisheries subsidies) floated the first draft text last month where he proposed that low income, resource-poor or those engaged in livelihood fishing only from developing countries will be exempted from a ban on subsidy, but only for a limited period, which he suggested could be two years.

“India and a number of other developing nations supporting artisanal fishers, at the on-going series of meetings on fisheries subsidies, have said that a time limit should be done away with as livelihoods would need to be protected for a long time to come,” the Geneva-based official said.

‘Aquaculture producer

Since India is the second largest aquaculture producer in the world and accounts for more than 6 per cent of global fish production, some members believe that exemptions offered to it should be lower than those given to countries with lower fishing. But India’s argument is that a cut in subsidies should be based on the “polluter pays” principle which basically means that those who have provided the highest subsidies leading to overfishing and over capacity, like several developed countries, should take on the highest cuts.

According to the latest data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization,an estimated 34 per cent of global stocks are overfished compared with 10 per cent in 1974, meaning they are being exploited at a pace where the fish population cannot replenish itself. Declining fish stocks threaten to worsen poverty and endanger coastal communities that rely on fishing. Roughly 39 million people depend on capture fisheries for their livelihood.

Published on June 06, 2021

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