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Kerala Kaumudi Online
Wednesday, 24 April 2024 3.10 PM IST

13th ministerial conference of WTO inaugurated in Abu Dhabi

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The 13th Ministerial Conference of WTO (MC13) was inaugurated yesterday on 26th February 2024, in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

One of the major issues before the members is the fisheries subsidy agreement. Though, the real issue is the depletion of fisheries and other ocean resources and the endangered future availability of fish for mankind on a sustainable basis; however, the issue has now been shifted to the ratification of the Agreement by two-third of the membership of WTO, pushing the discipline on real culprits of depleting ocean resources, that is, developed countries, at the back burner. It is being said that first let the agreement be enforced and the issue of imposition of discipline on those responsible for depletion of fisheries resources, shall be taken up later. It is no secret that the developed countries are responsible for depleting ocean resources that after exhausting their own waters, their big vessels, with the support of the subsidies given by their respective governments, are exploiting deep sea resources in distant waters. It is notable that according to data from OECD Fisheries Subsidy Estimates (2014-16) and the FAO yearbook, Fisheries and Aquaculture Statistics, 2016, Denmark provides a subsidy of $75,578 per fisherman, Sweden $65,979, New Zealand $36,512, UK $2,146, and India provides a subsidy of hardly $15 per fisherman. Therefore, they need to commit withdrawal of subsidies for their deep-sea fishing activities.

In 1974 only 10 percent of over-fishing was taking place, today over-fishing has extended to 34 percent. The United Nations' concern about the extinction of marine resources is justified, but the measures being adopted by the World Trade Organization for this purpose are not going to solve the problem, it will rather harm the livelihood of the small fishermen of the world. Due to the continuous decrease in the availability of fish, the livelihood of people living in coastal areas has been adversely affected and their poverty is increasing.

Today about 50 crore people in the world depend on fishing, and they account for hardly 40 percent of total fishing. Big companies undertake fishing in the deep sea, due to which the fishery resources in the oceans are gradually disappearing. There are no clear-cut restrictions on the subsidies given to overfishing by developed countries to the companies that own these fleets.

Though, no doubt, there is a need to put a full stop to the illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing by countries like China, our small fishermen are in no way responsible for any alleged IUU fishing. Therefore, the question of imposing any discipline on them, does not arise.

SJM urges upon our official delegation to block any such move by the developed countries, directly and indirectly, to bring about a consensus on disciplining those who are the real villains of depleting ocean resources, for the sake of future generations.

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