The Equity Aspect of Fisheries Subsidies

Fisheries subsidies which lead to IUU fishing, overfishing and overcapacity can contribute to fostering inequality. Not only do they negatively affect the sustainability of the marine environment, but they also undermine the livelihoods of small scale and artisanal fisheries. This note examines how the issue of inequity has been addressed in the context of WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies, including the latest draft Chair’s text, and whether those provisions are effective and sufficient.

On 30th of June 2021, the Chairperson of the WTO Negotiating Group on Rues presented a draft text on fisheries subsidies. The aim was to “point members towards the convergence needed to successfully conclude negotiations”. In the Draft text, some provisions on special and differential treatment have addressed certain equity aspects.

For instance, Articles 3.8 and 4.4 of the Draft text state that, for a certain period from the date of entry into force, developing countries’ subsidies granted to their low income, resource-poor and livelihood fishing up to 12 nautical miles from the baselines shall be exempt from certain disciplines. Also, the two proposed versions of Article 5.5 exempt Least Developed Countries (LDCs) from Article 5.1 disciplines for fishing activities within their territorial sea. Other proposed flexibilities are also examined.

The note concludes by proposing two possible approaches to strengthening equity aspects in the draft text. First, the fisheries subsidies agreement would need to strictly, comprehensively and effectively discipline the subsidies for largescale fishing. Secondly, it could provide greater flexibilities for small-scale and artisanal fisheries in developing countries and LDCs