Fisheries subsidies: India wants WTO to provide relief to small fishermen

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on January 17, 2018

Bone of contention: Government subsidies in the form of support for motorisation of fishing boats, fuel rebates and infrastructure support all fall under the targeted subsidies list at the WTO.

Points out that many will starve and lose their livelihood without govt support

Citing the vulnerability of its small-scale fishing fleet and the need to ensure food security, India has demanded special and differential treatment in fishery subsidy disciplines being negotiated at the World Trade Organization (WTO) so that support to small and marginal fishermen gets exempted.

In a recent meeting in Geneva on laying ground rules for negotiation of a global agreement to check over-fishing, New Delhi also insisted that developing countries be given capacity-building assistance to help in implementation.

Fisheries subsidies

“We are not averse to an international agreement to check over-fishing. But, the small subsidies that we provide to our fishermen, many of whom operate on a subsistence level, need to be exempted,” a Commerce Ministry official told BusinessLine.

Attempts are on at the WTO to arrive at an agreement on fisheries subsidies so that a pact is sealed at the next meeting of trade ministers in 2017.

Many members have pointed at the United Nations’ new Sustainable Development Goals, which commit governments, by 2020, to prohibiting certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing; elimination of subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; and refraining from introducing new subsidies.

Just a drop in the ocean

Overall, marine fish landings in India stood at 3.40 million tonnes in 2015 compared to global marine fishery production of over 83 million tonnes.

The subsidies that India provides its fishing community in the form of support for motorisation of fishing boats, fuel rebates and infrastructure support all fall under the targeted subsidies list at the WTO.

“If we stop supporting our small fishermen, many of them will lose their livelihoods and their families will have to starve. This is a matter of food security for our poor and this is what we are pointing out at the WTO,” the official said.

Global support

South Africa and the African, Caribbean & Pacific group of countries are also with India in their demand for special and differential treatment for developing countries.

But countries such as New Zealand, Iceland, Colombia, Norway and the US are more aggressive and don’t want to give away too many concessions, the official added.

New Delhi also said that developing countries should also be given assistance and support for capacity building to modernise and bring in technology for sustainable fishing operations.

Published on July 03, 2016

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