Nigeria’s federal government Thursday called for the exemption of small-scale and artisanal fishers from the scope of the fisheries subsidies discipline which is under negotiation at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) by member nations.
The fishing subsidies regime will impose discipline in the global industry and help fishing activities thrive in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Some fishing operations are deemed to be detrimental to environmental sustainability, particularly in the areas of overfishing and over-capacity, among others.
This development has prompted the WTO to plan some measures of discipline for fishing entities in order to restore sanity.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Adeniyi Adebayo, in his submission at a virtual meeting of the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) at the ministerial level on fisheries subsidies, affirmed Nigeria’s commitment and support to the agreement to prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies that had resulted in rapid depletion of global marine fish stocks.
The minister assured the WTO of Nigeria’s support and commitment to engage members towards achieving a balanced outcome in line with the organisation’s mandate.
Adebayo said Nigeria would be happy to negotiate on appropriate special and differential treatment provisions for developing countries and least developed countries.
He said the sustainable development of the fisheries sector would be a viable route to member states’ socioeconomic development given the sector’s contribution to food and livelihood security improvement.
He, however, said illegal fishing, overfishing and overcapacity, as well as other unsustainable fishing and fishing-related activities incentivised by heavy subsidisation threatened the ongoing efforts towards sustainable development of the sector.
Adebayo said: “These unsustainable practices have resulted in rapid depletion of global marine fish stocks. After 20 years of negotiations, I believe it is time for us to draw the curtain on the fisheries subsidies negotiations.
“Nigeria would continue to support you Madam DG and show requisite flexibilities so we can collectively achieve balanced outcomes consistent with SDG 14.6 and our mandate.”
Adebayo, in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Ifedayo Sayo, stated that Nigeria believed that the progress that had so far been made as contained in the revised Draft Consolidated Text of 30th June 2021, provided a good basis that could “take us to a successful conclusion; and we are happy to work on that basis while ensuring that the mandate of the negotiation is substantively achieved in a balanced manner.”
The minister, at the meeting attended by the Director-General of the WTO, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said that in view of the technicalities involved in the fisheries subsidies negotiations, as well as the urgency to expeditiously make progress, Nigeria’s participation would henceforth involve engagement by senior officials from his ministry and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The WTO mandate prohibits certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, and eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and refrain from introducing new such subsidies.
The framework also recognises that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing countries and least developed countries should be an integral part of the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiation.
James Emejo in Abuja