The WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, adopted during the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in June 2022, represents a significant stride towards ensuring ocean sustainability. By addressing harmful fisheries subsidies, which contribute to the depletion of global fish stocks, this agreement marks a historic achievement in international cooperation. This discussion explores the various facets of the treaty, its provisions, and the concerns raised by India, shedding light on the complexities of striking a balance between environmental conservation and the developmental needs of nations.

Provisions of the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies:

  • Article 3: Prohibits subsidies for fishing vessels involved in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
  • Article 4: Restricts subsidies for overfished fish stocks, with provisions for sustainable rebuilding measures.
  • Article 5: Restrains subsidies for high seas fishing outside regional fisheries management organization competence.

India’s Concerns and Considerations:

Balancing Development and Sustainability:

  • India stresses a balance between developing countries’ current and future fishing needs.
  • Advocates effective special and differential treatment (S&DT) based on developmental requirements.
  • Calls for insights from the Marrakesh Agreement for informed decision-making.

Avoiding Past Mistakes:

  • India highlights the need to learn from the imbalances and trade-distorting entitlements of the Uruguay Round, particularly in agriculture.
  • Seeks to prevent a repetition of unequal outcomes for certain developed members.

Subsidies and Socioeconomic Impact:

  • Questions the effectiveness of subsidies like income and livelihood support during no-fishing periods.
  • Highlights subsidies’ role in supporting socially disadvantaged fishing communities and preventing overfishing.
  • Contrasts India’s modest USD 15 per fisher family subsidy with other countries’ higher subsidies.

Moratorium on Distant Water Fishing Subsidies:

  • Proposes a 25-year moratorium on subsidies for distant water fishing beyond Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).
  • Aims to address imbalances and ensure equitable treatment of fishing nations.

Examples in the Indian Context:

  • India’s traditional and small-scale fishery sector relies on sustainable practices to support local communities.
  • Income and livelihood support during no-fishing seasons helps regenerate fish stocks and provide social security.
  • The disparity between India’s modest subsidies and larger subsidies in other countries underscores the potential for unequal impact.

The WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, a ground-breaking multilateral initiative, signifies a pivotal step towards ocean sustainability by curbing harmful practices. While celebrating this achievement, it is imperative to consider the concerns raised by India. These concerns underline the need for a comprehensive approach that harmonizes developmental aspirations with environmental preservation. Addressing the complexities of fisheries subsidies requires a delicate balance, where global cooperation ensures the well-being of both nations and oceans alike.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish March 18, 2024