An Assessment of Fishing Vessel Capacity on Subsidies, Non-Tariff Measures, and Attaining Sustainable Development Goals



Radika Kumar and Jadhav Chakradhar | Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade

Fish is an important commodity traded globally. It is also an essential source of protein for many people. It has estimated that worldwide one billion people (at least partly) depend on producing, processing and trading fish for their livelihood (FAO, 2018). Over the decades, fish provision has transformed the context of globalization and food consumption (Oosterveer, 2008). Seafood is one of the highest traded food commodities, exceeding the trade value of sugar, maize, coffee, rice and cocoa combined (Watson, Nichols, Lam, & Sumaila, 2017). Furthermore, according to the 2016 FAO Report on the State of the World of Fisheries and Aquaculture, both “fisheries and aquaculture remain an important source of food, nutrition, income and livelihoods for hundreds of millions around the world”. The report also shows that in 2016, developing countries accounted for more than half of fish exports. In other words, the developing countries hold a greater share of the fisheries market as compared to the developed economies. As a result, for developing and least developed countries, fish is not just used for human consumption but also adds significant upstream and downstream value (Kumar, 2017).

Despite the merits of the fisheries sector, there has also been a growing concern about the depletion of fisheries resources at the international level. The World Bank Report on “The Sunken Billion: The Economic Justification for Fisheries Reform”, which discusses the very weak economic performance of the global fisheries sector, has estimated the loss of economic benefits at about $50 billion a year (World Bank, 2017). The catches from illegal, unreported and unreported (IUU) fishing alone accounted for as much as $23.5 billion annually, representing an estimated 11 to 26 million tons of fish, which is equivalent to about one-fifth of the global reported catch (World Bank, 2017).

In tandem with this, in the context of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the concrete goal of reducing or eliminating fisheries subsidies was included in the trade and environment section of the Doha Declaration while the negotiations are taking place within the negotiating group on Rules. The WTO members have agreed to strengthen their fisheries subsidies disciplines (Oosterveer, 2008). In 2017, at the 11th WTO 2 Ministerial Conference, members agreed to work towards a work programme with a possible delivery of an agreement on fisheries subsidies by 2019 (WTO, 2017). There has been ongoing debate on the various textual proposals and ideas on the elimination or reduction to fisheries subsidies. There has been a number of proposals by different members of the WTO on the approach to the reduction or elimination of fisheries subsidies.

WTO fishing

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