USA: NGO's reactions to the December 2008 WTO text on fisheries subsidies

Going through the websites from NGOs reacting to the "roadmap" for further negotiations issued by the Chair of the WTO Negotiating Group on "Rules" on 19 December 2008 I found that only Oceana had issued a press release.

The author of the release, Courtney Sakay, stressed the importance of the WTO as fisheries subsidies’ negotiations as:

"one of the most important international efforts to stop global overfishing".

In a previous press release by Oceana (issued at the occasion of the 5th World Fisheries Congress in Yokohama in October 2008) the WTO Ms Sakai stated that:

"A key solution for addressing global overfishing is not found through traditional fisheries management, but through trade." and that "The science community has identified reducing subsidies as one of the most significant actions to combat global overfishing. The WTO negotiations provide the best opportunity to stop overfishing subsidies."

Here are the links to the aforementioned press releases by Oceana:

"WTO Members Urged to Fulfill their Commitment to Stop Overfishing Subsidies"

"Oceana Reveals Unlikely Source for Addressing Global Overfishing to World’s Leading Scientists and Academia"


Malaysia: changes in fuel subsidies for fishermen

In Malaysia the government provides fishermen with subsidised fuel.

The government decided, effective 5 June 2008, to "streamline" the price of diesel (for fishermen and vessel owners) at RM1.43 (US$ 0.41) per litre. Before the price of diesel for fishermen was RM1 (US$ 0.30) per litre and for vessel owners buy the proce was RM1.20 per litre.

Though the government provided some relief to the above categories of users and agreed to pay in cash a portion of the difference in the old and new prices to fishermen and vessel owners, as follows:

- Payment of RM200 (US$ 58) cash monthly to every owner and crew of Malaysian-owned vessels registered with the Fisheries Department.
- Payment of incentives to vessel owners at the rate of 10 sen per kg of fish landed by approved fishing vessels at fish landing centres in the country.

The payments are managed by the Malaysian Fisheries Development Authority.

Thereafter, effective Dec 16, the price of subsidised diesel and petrol for fishermen was reduced reduced from RM1.43 per litre to RM1.30 per litre. Accordng to the goverment with new price, the government would have to bear additional cost of about RM197 million (US$ 57 million) nnually.

At the same time the government maintains the RM200 monthly cost of living allowance for fishing vessel operators and fishermen on licensed vessels as with the incentive of 10 sen per kg given for the catch landed.

The reduction in price of subsidised diesel and petrol would mean savings in fuel cost of RM260-RM4,160 monthly depending on the fishing zone and vessel size."Traditional net vessels operating in Zone A (up to 5 nautical miles) will save RM260 monthly, dragnet vessels in Zone B (5-12 nautical miles) will save RM2,600 monthly."Dragnet vessels in Zone C (12-30 nautical miles) will save RM3,120 monthly and dragnet vessels in Zone C2 (over 30 nautical miles) will save RM4,160 monthly.

Furthermore the authorities have on 3 November 2008 increased the subsidised diesel and petrol quota from 106 million litre monthly to 126 million litre to accommodate the issuance of 15,900 new fishing vessel licences by the Fisheries Department."Following requests from dragnet vessel operators, the government also approved additional quota of 4,000 litres monthly to vessels fishing in Zone C dan C2."He said the price reduction and additional diesel and petrol quota should give fishermen higher returns due to the costs saved.

Here are the links to the official press releases:



INDIA: fuel subsidies for fishermen

I copy here a recent release from the Press Information Bureau, Government of India.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008, 13:37 IST Ministry of Finance



The Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Animal Husbandry Dairying and Fisheries has been implementing a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) on Development of Marine Fisheries, Infrastructure and Post Harvest Operations. Under the component on Motorisation of Traditional Craft of the CSS, subsidy to the tune of Rs. 20,000 per traditional boat for conversion into motorised boat has been provided. This subsidy is shared equally by Government of India and the respective State Governments. In case of Union Territories(UTs), the entire cost of subsidy is borne by Government of India. The subsidy is extended to the Out Board engines from 8HP to 10HP.

Engines ranging below 8HP have not been covered for subsidy under this scheme , as such low capacity engines may not be efficient to go for fishing in deeper waters. Under the component on Fishermen Development Rebate on High Speed Diesel (HSD) oil, a rebate/subsidy of Rs. 1.50 per litre on HSD consumed by the mechanised fishing vessels below 20 meter Over All Length (OAL) is provided. Rebate is shared on 80:20 basis between Centre and State Governments. In case of the States where Sales Tax is exempted by them and in UTs, the entire subsidy amount is borne by the Government of India.

This information was given by Shri Pawan Kumar Bansal, Minister of State for Finance in reply to a question raised by Shri A.V. Bellarmin in Lok Sabha today.

Here is the link to the press release on the government's website.


WTO: the new "Rules" text is out... and the Fisheries subsidies text is off (the table) ... or at least, so it looks!

Ambassador Valles Galmés of Uruguay, Chair of the Negotiating Group on Rules, released on Friday 19 December 2008 a document with revised versions of the text on Anti-dumping and on the Agreement of Subsidies and Countervailing Measures.

For Fisheries Subsidies there is not such "text" but rather a "...roadmap [that] identifies the key questions that we need to address in order to reconcile the approaches and advance our work in this area."

The document dated 19 December 2008, with WTO reference TN/RL/W/236, is available at the WTO website.


WTO: Rescuing the inexhaustible…(The issue of fisheries subsidies in the international trade policy)

This is the title of an article published by Ekaterina Anyanova in the Journal of International Commercial Law and Technology Vol 3, No 3 (2008).
At the end of the article the author draws a series of conclusions which I found worthwile to reflect here:
  1. Separate national efforts on reducing or elimination of fisheries subsidies won’t bring too much. In opposite, it would rather reflect the fisheries management slogan of David Cushing ‘sink every other boat but mine’.
  2. During the UNLOSC III, some participants even proposed to abolish the freedom of fishing and establish “the species approach to fisheries management”. This regime requires not only the coordinate work of governments and international organizations. The significant contribution of universities, fishermen, scientists is “a must”. If economy is a help to biology, why can’t biology be of help to the economy.
  3. The overfishing problem could be (in part) solved by the farming of fishing resources.
  4. Moreover, the statistics shows that over 15 000 fish species are still not identified. Perhaps, nature will help humanity.
  5. Environmentalists stress that the proper fisheries management could assist almost totally to eliminate the harmful impact on the environment.
  6. Over one half of the world trade in fish and fish products belongs to the developing countries. Paragraph 28 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration makes an express reference to the importance of fishing sector to the developing countries. It is not occasional.
  7. The fishing industry means work for 36 million people each year only in primary sectors. Before taking any concrete decision on the reduction or abolition of the fisheries’ subsidies, one has also to consider them.

The article can be downloaded at the following address:



WTO: the WTO beaten by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)... when protecting fish stocks

In a recent article in the December issue of "Ocean and Coastal Management", Dr. Peter Oosterveer (Environmental Policy group at Wageningen University) concludes that the MSC has done more to protect fish stocks from overfishing than the WTO.

On the WTO Dr. Oosterveer mentions the following problems:
  1. sustainability requirments do not play a role in the WTO;
  2. the slow pace of the Doha Development Agenda negotiations;
  3. negotiators have not yet agreed how to deal with the "smaller fishermen";
  4. the uncertainty on the shape of the new disciplines to be agreed; and
  5. fisheries subsidies being part of the "single undertaking", thus being a bargaining chip that can be traded against other negotiating subjects.

Dr. Oosterveer concludes that a private initiative, such as the MSC, when compared to the WTO, is much more promosing because more dynamic.

Here underunder is the reference to an article in ScienceDaily about Dr Oosteveer's article in "Ocean and Coastal Management".

Wageningen University and Research Centre. "Quality Mark Provides Better Protection For Fish Stocks Than Does The World Trade Organization." ScienceDaily 10 December 2008. 12 December 2008



EU: Fisheries subsidies at the UK's House of Lords

Hereunder is a question put to the European Commission in the context of a report titled "The Progress of the Common Fisheries Policy" (22 July 2008) produced by the Committee on the European Union of the House of Lords.
9. What are your views on the possible impact on EU fisheries structural policy of WTO level discussions as regards subsidies in the fishing sector?

On 30 November 2007 the Chair of the WTO Negotiating Group on "Rules", Ambassador Valle (Uruguay), circulated a draft consolidated text to Members on the subjects covered by the "Rules" chapters, ie anti-dumping and countervailing measure and subsidies, including fisheries subsidies.

The Commission notes that a number of elements included in the aforementioned text reflect the two key principles guiding the EU's policies for aid to the fisheries sector, namely to prohibit subsidies that encourage overcapacity, leading to overfishing, while allowing subsidies that help to remove capacity in excess of available fish resources. These elements of the draft negotiating text are incorporated in the so called "red" (prohibited) and "green" (allowed) box types of subsidies.

Nevertheless the Commission is concerned that the proposals by the Chair, as they now stand, could prevent public authorities from granting support to the fishing sector to ensure the transition to a sustainable state. Examples of this are the case of aid programmes intended for a smooth and efficient restructuring of parts of the fishing industry. Furthermore the proposed exceptions ("green" box) seem insufficient to allow for the implementation of cleaner technologies, including the replacement of engines, in order to limit emissions harmful for the environment.

Besides the proposals to prohibit or to allow certain types of subsidies, the Chair's text includes certain provisions to reinforce the notification of subsidies. In this respect, the Commission would like to see a very ambitious result of the negotiations, one which would bring WTO Members at least to the same level of transparency as the one shown by the EU internally, when implementing structural funds, and externally, when notifying aid to the WTO. Increased transparency will not only generate knowledge about the types of subsidies given but will also provide a much needed insight into the impact of such subsidies both on trade and on the sustainable use of fishery resources.

In sum, the Commission's assessment is that the current negotiating proposals, as set out in the Chair's text, should be more balanced. In other words, the WTO should be given the tools to tackle the problem of overcapacity and overfishing while allowing for the provision of aid that positively contributes to the sustainable exploitation of available fishery resources and that mitigates the negative impacts of adjustment measures on fishing communities. This assessment is shared by other WTO Members in the developing world as well as developed countries.

More details on the positions of the European Union in the fisheries negotiations are available in the three submissions made to the WTO Negotiating Group on Rules on 23 April 2003 (WTO document TN/RL/W/82), on 11 April 2005 (WTO document TN/RL/W/178 and on 26 April 2006 (WTO document TN/RL/GEN/I34). These documents are public and can be downIoaded from the WTO's website.
Here is the link to the UK's Parliament where the above text can be found.