OPINION: Why African Countries should make this end of the line for harmful fishing subsidies

OPINION: Why African Countries should make this end of the line for harmful fishing subsidies

By: Sharon .W. Kiburi Fishery Subsidies are financial payments, direct or indirect, from public entities to the fishing sector, which reduces the cost of  fishing and increases revenues. What drives fisheries subsidies in the coastal oceans of Africa? “Untackling the key issues of the World Trade Organisation (WTO’s) negotiations on fishing subsidies and the free flow of information in a global context is vital,” said Mona Samari – Co-founder, West Africa Fisheries Journalism Group and pannel moderator on is this the end of fishing earth journalism webinar. The negotiations about subsidies began twenty years ago, and the set guidelines are to be agreed upon in September 2021 for all UN signatory countries. The idea being abolishing fishing subsidies will reduce fishing activities in the oceans. The question on a majority of people’s minds is the difference the WTO’s negotiation will make to the lives of African communities who have relied on fishing for their economic survival. European countries, South Korea and China do the majority of large scale fishing in African Countries. They pay peanuts in the fishing licences to the host countries and make huge profits from sales. On the Malindi coast of Kenya, Salim Ali Mohamed has been a fisherman since his primary school days, Now he has a family and dependents and still relies on fishing. “Government subsidies neither national nor county have included monetary gain nor significant boost to small scale individual fishermen. The county government gives Utah board engineers at a fair rate for two years. It is a tiny aid that has not translated to a huge increasing the number of fish we get,” said Salim. Further, Salim said that the number of fish caught during their fishing operations has dramatically reduced. At the same time, a massive number of substantial foreign fishing boats are spotted in the Kenyan waters. “People depend on nature, no fish, no fishers and no fish dollars hence it’s vital we take marine environment carefully because humanity’s well-being depends on it,” said  Dr Rashid Sumaila Professor, Ocean and Fisheries Economics, University of British Columbia. Further, Dr Rashid said there is a need to belabour the quest that data shows that human beings are overtaking and over polluting nature, mainly marine life, through plastic pollution and oil spills, more so in West African Countries. In 1950 the biomass of fish was estimated at 2.5 to 2.0 A A a Million tonnes of fish while in 2000 the biomass was estimated at 1.0 to 0.5 million tonnes of fish, all of which has been made possible in most instances due to fishing subsidies. Dr Rashid suggested that there is a need to enhance the state of fisheries by fixing the economics case in point by removing incentives to overfish through improving fisheries management, push for regional cooperative management, make illegal fishing unprofitable, buy insurance by creating marine reserves, pull out and end harmful subsidies. “Africa should be at the forefront of this negotiations because of the opportunity cost that goes into fishing subsidies that can be directed to other developments  projects for the community. These, in turn, will aid in discouraging overfishing, overcapacity fishing,  illegal Unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing,” said Dr Rashid. “The pull to reduces fishing subsidies as proposed by the WTO negotiations include, No subsidies to vessels already caught conducting illegal fishing practices and environmental pollution, no subsidies that encourage overfishing by enabling overreliance and maybe some aid to use subsidies for low-income countries to small fishing groups,” said Alice Tipping – Sustainable Trade and Fisheries Subsidies Lead, International Institute for Sustainable Development “There are too many industrial vessels that catch too few fish,” said Beatrice Gorez- Coordinator, Coalition for Fair Fisheries Arrangements. Beatrice is leading the talks on good fishing practices in Africa and European nations. Adding Beatrice said IUU fishing is often unreported and unregulated; it would make an enormous difference if the subsidies for IUU fishing were stopped. “ Fuel subsidies or de-taxation is bad and should be stopped if were are to preserve the ecosystem of the fishies,” said Beatrice Gorez. Subsidies encourage overfishing and pollution of the ecosystem; the question of should least developing countries be given exemptions in subsidies? It is a misplaced priority. Sharon .W. Kiburi is a freelance journalist in Kenya

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