Some WTO Members have been very vocal in asking for broad exemptions to the so called artisanal fisheries. In particular India (with the support of China and Indonesia) have been making submissions to ensure that what they consider as “artisanal” or small-scale or subsistence fisheries is not subject to any new rule on subsidies for the fisheries sector.
“Based on the broad elements that have been advanced by international rganizations such as FAO, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and ICCAT and Members’ submissions thus far, India believes that the common characteristics for developing an understanding of small-scale, artisanal fisheries may be based on a recognition of the following:
- They are traditional fisheries involving fishing households or small groups of fishworkers.
- The fishing vessel could vary from gleaning or a one-man canoe to up to 20 m, including trawlers, seiners or long-liners.
- They use relatively small fishing vessels, which may be non-motorized or use small out board engines (say up to 10 bhp).
- The fishing is confined to close to the shoreline.
- Use of fishing gear such as beach seine and gill nets, hook and line, and traps.
- Use of labour-intensive technologies.
- Artisanal fisheries can be both subsistence or commercial, providing for local consumption or export as well.”
At the same time other WTO Members insist very much on the fact that “no blank check” should be given to developing countries in the name of “artisanal fisheries”. This has been was clearly stated by a number of countries, developed and developing, throughout the negotiations. As an illustration I quote from a submission by Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. tabled as a reaction to another submission by India, China and Indonesia.
“Developing countries have seen first hand how uncontrolled fishing in their coastal waters can lead to stock depletion and threats to livelihoods, and how subsidies have distorted production and trade patterns. Thus, there is general consensus that there should be no "blank check" to develop fisheries in a way that undermines their long-term sustainability.”
In another submission (TN/RL/W/234 of 17 July 2008) by Argentina, Chile, Colombia,Ecuador, Mexico and Peru also stated that flexibilites for developing countries in the context of Specal and Differential Treatment are not tantamount to a "blank check":
In Hong Kong, our Ministers recognized the importance of the fisheries sector for development priorities, poverty reduction, and livelihood and food security concerns. If well managed, fishing can continue to be a significant source of food and income for a large part of the population in developing countries, as well as an instrument for reorientation from less productive activities. That is why a central element of future disciplines will be the flexibilities given to developing countries to support fishing activities. However, scientific information on the status of marine resources and countries' own experiences in the exploitation of fishery resources show that such flexibility cannot be a blank cheque.