Fisheries is a critical issue for sustainable development of all EAC countries, whether having access to the ocean or relying on inland fishing. This meeting gathered East African negotiators at both UNFCCC and the WTO, who shared perspectives on the way forward for fisheries in both fora.
This second joint negotiators’ forum meeting took place on the sidelines of the 2nd Regional Annual Meeting of the PACT EAC2 project, in Kigali, Rwanda on the 4th of September, 2017. The discussions started with each of the country partner presenting the main highlights and recommendations from the country update notes (CUNs) on “Interlinkages of climate change and fishery: views of national stakeholders and the way forward”.
All CUNs mainly emphasized the negative impacts climate change has had on fishing (in both ocean and lakes) as well as fish processing in the sub-region. However, a positive effect has been highlighted which is the reemergence of fish species whose population had previously reduced. For example, the population of Nile Perch has increased due to lower volumes of water in Lake Victoria.
It was emphasized that EAC fishing communities require skills and knowledge to adapt to the changing climate through adopting better fishing practices or diversifying their sources of livelihood. Small-scale processors also need better infrastructure for fish processing and storage to reduce postharvest losses that may result from weather conditions such as high temperature. Such stakeholders should also be consulted more regularly and included in the policy making process in the region.
Moreover, it was explained by the majority of partners that existing policies and regulatory framework on the environment and the fisheries sector are adequate but lack implementation frameworks in the EAC region, including for the Nationally Determined Contribution.
Finally, the EAC stakeholders interviewed when developing the CUNs in the beneficiary countries recommended to both UNFCCC and EAC negotiators to focus on capacity-building for developing and least developed countries (i.e. finance, technical capacities, technology, etc.).
Then, some of the main issues of the issue note developed by CUTS International on “Fishery sector in the WTO and UNFCCC: Outlining a Synergetic Approach” were presented. The importance of fishery in the EAC region, as well as the impacts of climate change and fishery subsidies were briefly complemented in the presentation made by CUTS staff.
It was observed that there is no clear mention of fishery in the UNFCCC Paris Agreement, but that EAC members have taken measures in their NDCs to protect and preserve fish stocks and marine environment against adverse effects of the climate change; such as plans to enhance the resilience of the agriculture, livestock and fisheries, and enhancing conservation & fishery resource management. Implementing the NDCs will not only alleviate the negative impacts of climate change on fishery but also create other trade-related opportunities.
In the WTO, fishery negotiations have been active in the last months, and in July 2017 the members even agreed to move to the next phase of negotiations and prepare the different proposals in form of a matrix. No proposal discussed “climate change” per se, but some of them mention the objective of fish stocks sustainability and marine environment conservation. The role of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations has also been highlighted in many WTO proposal as the main actors in determining the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities and overfished fish stocks. They would represent a good way to achieve cooperation between and among fishing nations that is essential for the conservation and effective management of international fisheries, linking the issues of climate and trade in this important sector.
The floor was then opened to forum participants for remarks and comments. The need for more research on the effects of climate change on fishery/ fish stocks was highlighted by a participant. A WTO negotiator gave a brief presentation of the status of negotiations on fishery, stating that the different proposals on the table are just different interpretation of the mandate given by Head of States to negotiate on this issue. Different interpretations that are results of their different interests. EAC countries are part of two proposals (i.e. LDC proposal and Africa Group proposal), in which the issue of capacity building is critical.
Participants supported the proposals on capacity building, notably on IUU, countries need to be able to patrol, and fight this destructive means of fishing in their Exclusive Economic Zones. The issue of policy flexibility to remain able to develop, ensuring policy space to defend national fishery sector is critical both at the WTO and UNFCCC (via their NDCs and negotiations on livestock for instance). One of the UNFCCC negotiators affirmed that the Paris Agreement is not totally silent on fishery as it tackles the issue of food security in its article 2.
The next joint negotiators’ forum will take place around September 2018, on the sidelines of the 3rd Regional Annual Meeting of the PACT EAC2 project.