The World Trade Organisation will soon be finalising new trade deals, and included in those deals will be agreements concerning fisheries.
Pacific governments and non-governmental organisations have been lobbying in Geneva to land a fair agreement for the Pacific nations.
Right now many of the Pacific associated NGOs believe that the region is being given a bad deal. Many, like the Pacific Network on Globalisation with Civil Society Organisations, are saying that no deal is better than a bad deal.
What is wrong with the deal that is being given to the Pacific?
Adam Wolfenden, campaigner for the Pacific Network on Globalisation said the proposed WTO agreement which targets Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing subsidies has also conveniently failed to address those most responsible for the problem – the bigger countries that have contributed to overfishing and declining global fish stocks.
“Negotiations for a new WTO agreement have resulted in some changes in the text of the document. Unfortunately, the changes do not address the concerns of the Pacific, the current text of the agreement threatens the ability of island nations to manage their own fish stocks amongst other things,” he said.
“As we have said before, a no-deal is better than a bad deal. What we have right now is a bad deal for the Pacific, owners of the majority of the world’s fishing stocks.”
He said the recently submitted chair’s text for ministers to consider remains fundamentally flawed and in favour of those countries with large capacity for subsidising and reporting.
Its failure to target those most historically responsible for overfishing is ensuring that the burdens of the agreement are being carried by those least responsible.
Pacific island governments are making their submissions as well.
Fiji’s Minister for Trade and Commerce Faiyaz Koya said massive subsidies by large industrial fishing countries have led to the overfishing of oceans, and this needs to stop.
He said Pacific nations are the custodians of the largest ocean resources, and half of the world’s tuna stocks came from the Pacific Ocean.
“The fishing subsidies negotiations are not just an agreement for us, it is about our livelihoods, our survival and our ability to grow as a nation,” Mr Koya said in his submission in Geneva.
“It is about making sure that we protect our resources for our future generations, including the lives of our fisher folk, which I talked about earlier.”
Illegal fishing is defined as fishing without the permission of the country where the fishing is occurring, while unreported is fishing that has not been reported or has been misreported to national authorities against the local laws.
Unregulated fishing applies to fishing that goes against any conservation or management measures that a country has put in place.
The agreement proposes that countries must have laws, regulations, and administrative procedures in place to prevent harmful subsidies or payments to those involved in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.
This would mean that a lot of small-scale fishing in the region could be classed as ‘unreported’, and thus would have two years to comply before they risk losing their subsidies.
Last year, in the lead up to this meeting, 81 developing countries made it very clear they wanted special treatment to apply not only to small-scale fishers, but to be a permanent flexibility for those types of countries.
The current proposal relating to small-scale fishers includes a carve-out of the text’s prohibitions for those fishers who are “low income, resource poor and livelihood fishing”, who would be allowed to receive subsidies for two years provided they fish within twelve nautical miles of the coastline.
This however could be a problem for small-scale fishers who regularly fish or want to regularly fish beyond that area, especially if they don’t have access to up-to-date fishing data on the status of stocks, and regularly catch multiple species.