Agreement on fisheries subsidies, key to sustainable fisheries — Okonjo-iweala
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-iweala, Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), said removing fisheries subsidies would support fishing globally.
Okonjo-iweala said this during a courtesy visit to the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment on Tuesday in Abuja.
According to her, there are subsidies that allow countries with vast oceans to overfish globally and the WTO has been trying to negotiate the fishing deal for 21 years.
She said if the subsidy was not stopped the fisheries would be depleted, adding that a recent study had shown there was almost 50% overfishing.
She said around 260 million people worldwide and 12 million in Africa depend directly or indirectly on fishing.
“It’s mainly developing countries that don’t have the capacity to monitor waters where there are a lot of reported fisheries.
“We must rectify the agreement and deposit the instrument of acceptance of this particular agreement.
“Two-thirds of the countries of the world must deposit their instruments of acceptance for the agreement to enter into force.
“I would like my country, Nigeria, to be the first or the second to file its agreement,” she said.
Okonjo-Iweala said the deal line took two to three years, adding that it should be between six and nine months “for us to get the desired results.”
“We have to act fast, the agreement deals with unregulated, illegal and unreported fishing, it is a very good agreement, you cannot subsidize this kind of fishing.
“Countries and members doing these things need to stop because now we have an agreement,” she said.
According to her, for the agreement to be beneficial, it is necessary to improve the capacity to implement the agreement as well as the capacity to manage the fisheries.
“We have identified key points. Article seven is what I advocate because many developing countries do not have the capacity to manage their fisheries and that is why illegal fishing continues in the waters .
“We started with a fund of $20 million and we have already mobilized five million dollars and we will continue to mobilize because it is a rolling fund.
“It is about enabling developing countries to build their fisheries management capacity under the agreement and we need to work together to put it into a concept document and finalize the structure of the fisheries fund,” she said.
Speaking earlier, Amb. Marian Katagum, Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, said the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement had established new global rules to reduce harmful subsidies
According to Katagum, this will also protect global fish stocks in a way that also recognizes the needs of fishers in developing and least developed countries.
Katagum said the agreement was an important step, adding that it improved food security and increased sources of income, especially for low-income families in rural and coastal areas.
According to her, Nigeria will take all necessary measures for the acceptance of the protocol as well as the deposit of the instrument for ratification.
“We will play a constructive role in the negotiations, particularly on the outstanding issues of forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing.
“This is to ensure that we adopt comprehensive discipline on fisheries subsidies ahead of the four years envisaged in the decision,” she said.
She said it was important to build the capacity of relevant fisheries institutions, ministries and colleges in determining overfished stocks in Nigerian waters.
She said it was based on the best scientific evidence that would trigger the agreement’s Article Four ban.
The minister said the development of capacity in calculating a biologically sustainable level (BSL) for a stock and demonstrating that subsidies would promote sufficient stock recovery.
“Technical assistance in developing a fisheries management program that maintains stocks at sustainable levels is also important.
“Assistance needed includes national programs funded by the WTO which may include workshops on the implementation of the covered agreements.
“We also need assistance to Nigerian universities in the area of trade policy research and other technical assistance programs offered by the WTO,” she said.
Katagum assured that Nigeria’s Trade Office to the WTO in Geneva would continue to engage constructively with WTO members.
She congratulated Okonjo-Iweala on the visit and assured her of Nigeria’s proactivity in the negotiations that would lead to the development of a more comprehensive discipline to be submitted to the 13th Ministerial Conference. (NOPE)