Lack of transparency and opacity are among the biggest problems confronting a number of stakeholders in the current debate on fisheries subsidies.
The very poor record in notifications to the WTO of subsidies to the fisheries sector is one of the issues that a number of governments, NGOs and academia have pointed as main obstacles to have an informed discussion and a clear picture of what are the real effects of subsidies on the fish resources.
Some countries are reporting subsidies to fisheries in the context of WTO Members’ notification obligations under the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing measures.
The Republic of Korea is one of them. The last “New and Full Notification” from Korea is dated 7 May 2010 and has the WTO reference G/SCM/N/186/KOR.
The interesting thing about the notification to the WTO is that other countries can asks questions to the notifying Member on the content of the notification.
I copy hereunder the questions that Canada asked to Korea on fisheries subsidies (WTO ref. G/SCM/Q2/KOR/35 of 15 October 2010).
Question re Support for Fishing Activities
The stated purpose of the subsidy is to relieve financial burden and support stable fishing business operations by providing lower rate loans. Canada would like to have more information on the specific types of fishing activities and business operations that this programme supports.
The loan is given to the fishermen regardless of fishing gear type as long as the fishermen have the rights to fish in accordance with related laws and regulations. This includes fishermen engaged in aquaculture and inland and marine capture fishing activities.
Question re Support for Aquaculture Fishery Development
The policy objective of this programme is to have a stable supply of fishery products by supporting the development of aquaculture fishery under the changing circumstances of domestic and overseas fisheries production environment. Could the Republic of Korea please explain the meaning of "changing circumstances of domestic and overseas fisheries production environment"?
That may include, for example, changes in demand for fishery products, changes in annual catches in the coastal and off-shore waters, consumers' concern for sanitary condition of fishery products, and environmentally friendly and responsible aquaculture.
Question re Support for Old Fishing Vessel and Equipments Replacement
According to the description of the policy objectives, this programme ensures navigational safety through replacement of old vessels and vessel equipments. Could you provide more details as to what type of vessel equipment is supported by this programme? How many and which types of vessels have benefitted from this programme?
Under this programme, two old pelagic fishing vessels were replaced during 2007-2008 with imported used fishing vessels.
Question re Support for R&D of Environmental Technology Development Projects
Could Korea elaborate on the types of "cutting-edge environmental technologies" that have received support?
There have been 271 R&D programmes (i.e. "cutting-edge environmental technologies") that have received support under Development of and Support for Environmental Technology Act during 2007-2008, and they are categorized into five sectors as following:
• Core post-processing technologies which are the basis for pollution reduction in various environmental factors• Preventive anti-pollution technologies such as those used for development of sustainable eco-friendly materials, products and manufacturing process• Environmental technologies to actively cope with international environmental issues• Original technologies for environmental fusion area• Technologies used for combining relevant effective environmental technologies