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WTO members engage on new fisheries subsidies proposals

Members engaged in detailed discussions on three new proposals aimed at achieving an outcome on fisheries subsidies at the upcoming Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in December 2017. The proposals from the European Union (EU), the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of members, and six Latin American members Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru and Uruguayall seek to achieve the 2020 targets set out in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

SDG 14.6 calls for prohibiting certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminating subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and refraining from introducing new such subsidies, by 2020. Goal 14.6 also recognizes that appropriate and effective special and differential (S&D) treatment for developing and least-developed members should be an integral part of the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations.

The three proposals presented at the 9 December meeting of the Negotiating Group on Rules (NGR) all share the same objectives: achieving the goals set out in SDG 14.6; ensuring effective disciplines while also providing special and differential treatment for developing and least-developed country (LDC) members; securing an outcome at the Eleventh Ministerial Conference (MC11) in Buenos Aires. In addition, the proponents call for the negotiations to proceed on a standalone basis, that is, there should be no linkage with other issues being discussed as part of the rules negotiations.

The EU proposal, which was first introduced at the previous NGR meeting on 11 November, seeks to prohibit subsidies linked to overcapacity (including those used to increase the capacity of, or support the construction of, fishing vessels) and to IUU fishing, provides special and differential treatment for developing members and LDCs, and highlights the importance of members notifying all kind of subsidies that support, directly or indirectly, marine fishing activity.

The ACP proposal primarily targets subsidies provided to large-scale commercial or industrial fishing and subsidies to fishing activities outside of members’ maritime jurisdictions. The proposal would impose a ban on all IUU subsidies and all subsidies granted to fishing vessels or fishing activity negatively affecting fish stocks that are in an overfished condition; flexibilities would be included allowing developing members with small-scale fishing sectors to increase their capacity to fish.

The joint proposal from Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru and Uruguay advocates using a flexible approach to the application of disciplines by developing members and LDCs, inspired by that adopted in the Trade Facilitation Agreement. In particular, under the proposal these countries could apply transition periods (to be defined through negotiations) for implementing the specific disciplines to be established, in some cases subject to the receipt of technical assistance and support for capacity building.

Summing up the discussions, Ambassador Wayne McCook of Jamaica, the chair of the NGR, noted commonalities in the proposals, in particular their reliance on SDG 14.6. It is clear that members will need to look at the impact of certain subsidies that contribute to overfishing and to overcapacity of fishing fleets, as well as how to address IUU fishing, he said. Members have been working on these issues for more than a decade, so any solution will require new creativity, which, he said, was perhaps being seen in some of the proposals now being put forward.

Canada told members that a group of members participating in a plurilateral initiative on fisheries subsidies were planning to hold their first substantive meeting early next year and that any member wishing to take part in the initiative could join in. So far, 16 members have signaled their interest, Canada said.

The next dedicated session on fisheries subsidies is tentatively scheduled to take place on 24 January 2017.



Sole of Discretion

Sole of Discretion are a collective of small-scale fishers fishing out of Plymouth harbour. They are committed to procuring fish and shellfish that have been caught with as little damage to the marine environment as possible, have contributed to the livelihood of small-scale fishers and their communities, and to get these high quality and delicious fish to consumers.

One of the key advantages is traceability, as they know all their fishers and can trace the fish back to the boat. Their boats are under 10 meters long, and use rod and line, static gill and trammel nets and mid-water trawls for shoaling species such as sardine or herring.

Some of the flat fish species are occasionally caught using light-weight bottom trawl, so that the gear does not impact or plough the seabed, the vessels carry low horse-power engines, and cover ground that is not coral or rock identified on the netters through VMS tracking and, over time, habitat mapping.

The group of fishers havedocumented substantial data and video footage which will become publicly available and is worked on in collaboration with local universities. The fishers are working in collaboration with Exeter University, to help identifying ways of sustainable fisheries. There is a trading company registered under the Community interest company, so that the fishers get the maximum profits as well, and the prices are often higher than the market price.

These low-impact fishers have been receiving prices that are governed by the landings of the highly commercial factory vessels, where the prices are agreed in advance. This is being carried out to reward good practices and preserve the ecology of the sea. There are no discards of any fish, unless there is legal obligation. One of the major aspects of this group, is that the static-net fishers use relatively less fuel per kilo of fish than trawl caught fish.

Passive fishing methods typically use 0.1-0.4 litres of fuel per kilo as compared to 0.5-1.5 litres of beam trawled caught fish. This initiative has been undertaken to reward the already diminishing number of small-scale fishers, whose population has come down to 2,500 fishers from 10,000 fishers ten years ago.

One of the key campaigns has been that the small-scale fishers should be allocated quota according to the environmental and social considerations as well as economic considerations, as newly required under Article 17 of the Common Fisheries Policy.


Fishers and Fish Farmers

An estimated 56.6 mn people were engaged in the primary sector of capture fisheries and aquaculture in 2014, of whom 36 per cent were engaged full-time, 23 per cent part-time, and the remainder were either occasional fishers or of unspecified status. The proportion of these workers engaged in aquaculture increased from 17 per cent in 1990 to 33 per cent in 2014. For the first time since the period 2005–2010, the total engagement in fisheries and aquaculture did not increase. Overall, employment in the sector decreased, almost entirely due to a decrease of about 1.5 mn fishers, while engagement in aquaculture remained more stable. In 2014, 84 per cent of the global population engaged in the fisheries and aquaculture sector was in Asia, followed by Africa (10 per cent), and Latin America and the Caribbean (4 per cent). Of the 18 mn people engaged in fish farming, 94 per cent were in Asia. Women accounted for 19 per cent of all people directly engaged in the primary sector in 2014, but when the secondary sector (processing, trading) is included, women make up about half of the workforce.

The total number of fishing vessels in the world in 2014 is estimated at about 4.6 mn, very close to the figure for 2012. The fleet in Asia was the largest, consisting of 3.5 mn vessels and accounting for 75 per cent of the global fleet, followed by Africa (15 per cent), Latin America and the Caribbean (6 per cent), North America (2 per cent) and Europe (2 per cent). Globally, 64 per cent of reported fishing vessels were engine-powered in 2014, of which 80 per cent were in Asia. In 2014, about 85 per cent of the world’s motorized fishing vessels were less than 12 m in length overall (LOA). The estimated number of fishing vessels of 24 m and longer operating in marine waters in 2014 was about 64 000, the same as in 2012.

Source: FAO. 2016. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (A Flyer),


Infographics on small-scale fisheries guidelines

This infographic gives you a brief idea about the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Small-scale Fisheries in the context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication, that was adopted by Member countries of the FAO in 2014. This videographic is a joint effort of WFFP-WFF-ICSF-IPC, funded under the IFAD project for dissemination of information on SSF Guidelines.


ICSF’s Documentation Centre ( has a range of information resources that are regularly updated. A selection:


FAO. 2016. Lessons learned in water accounting: the fisheries and aquaculture perspective in the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) framework, by Daniela Ottaviani, Sachiko Tsuji & Cassandra De Young. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 599. Rome, Italy.

Water accounting seeks to provide comprehensive, consistent and comparable information related to water for policy- and decisionmaking to promote a sustainable use of water resources as well as equitable and transparent water governance among water users. One of the frameworks for environmental and economic accounting is constituted by the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA), which the United Nations Statistical Commission endorsed as an international standard in 2012.

Scoping study on decent work and employment in fisheries and aquaculture: Issues and actions for discussion and programming

This scoping study is the result of an exploratory mapping and scoping exercise, based on a desk review of recent literature on labour conditions in fisheries and aquaculture. The review was undertaken to identify and discuss issues and challengesas well as possible actions and measures by interested fisheries and aquaculture stakeholdersrelated to the promotion of decent employment in the sector.

Indigenous peoples human rights defenders field handbook on human rights documentation and advocacy

©Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact

Community-based Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defenders (IPHRDs) are the target users of this handbook. It is primarily intended to guide members of the IPHRD Network and their organizations, institutions and communities in gathering information on specific cases of human-rights violations. It is important that users of this handbook are already knowledgeable on human rights, in general, and are familiar with international human rights instruments.


The fishing industry employs more than 50 mn people around the world and those who earn their lives from the sea are often exposed to challenging and risky conditions. The ILO’s Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188) was adopted to ensure that fishers have decent working conditions on board fishing vessels. The Convention also puts in place a mechanism to ensure compliance with, and enforcement of, its provisions by States. Now, fishing vessels and those on extended international voyages may be subject to labour inspections in foreign ports.


A Useful Toolkit

Thursday, 14 June 2007, will go down in history as a particularly significant day for fishers and fishworkers all over the world. That was the day the 96th Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) of the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007, which seeks to guarantee innovative new labour standards to improve the conditions for millions of men and women working in the fishing sector worldwide.

Adopted in the year of the silver jubilee of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Fishing Convention is the first ILO instrument in fishing since the adoption of the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone regime by coastal States in the 1970s. This time around, unlike at the 93rd Session of the ILC in 2005, more countries, including China, which accounts for the largest share of fishing capacity and the largest number of fishers in the world, voted for the adoption of the Convention.

The Convention has a three-tier structure. First, all provisions of the Convention, upon its ratification, would apply to fishing vessels above 24 m in length, and fishers working on board such vessels. Second, many of the provisions would apply to the majority of commercial fishing vessels and fishers working on them, regardless of size of the vessel. Third, some of the prescriptive provisions would apply to fishing vessels below 24 m over an unspecified period of time. The latter tier, presumably, applies to industrial fishing operations employing vessels below 24 m.

Except for minimum age, the other provisions of the Convention that would apply to the small scale and artisanal sub sector are non-prescriptive; it has been left to the ILO member countries to adopt laws, regulations or other measures to implement them. In particular, countries with large fisher populations and fishing fleets, such as China, India and Vietnam, which voted for its adoption, should ratify and implement its provisions at the earliest.

The Work in Fishing Convention, 2007, is just a toolkit. The ball is now in the court of national governments. They should consult all relevant stakeholders, especially organizations representing fishworkers, and use the Convention to develop effective measures to protect the working and living conditions of fishers, both in large- and small-scale fishing.

– from Comment in SAMUDRA Report No. 47, July 2007



27 March to 7 April 2017 (two weeks)

Preparatory Committee established by the UN General Assembly resolution 69/292: Development of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdictionthird session

17 to 18 April 2017 (two days)

Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole on the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspectseighth meeting

15 to 19 May 2017 (one week)

United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Seaeighteenth meeting

5 – 9 June 2017, New York
Our Oceans, Our Future: Partnering for the Implementation of SDG 14

The high-level United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development will be convened at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 5 to 9 June 2017, coinciding with World Oceans Day, to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14. The Conference will be co-hosted by the Governments of Fiji and Sweden. The Conference aims to be the game changer that will reverse the decline in the health of our ocean for people, planet and prosperity. There are preparatory meetings for this conference organized from 15 to 16 February 2017 in New York.

6 to 8 September 2017 (three days)

Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole on the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects – ninth meeting