At the heart of the global fisheries economy are small-scale fisheries. At a recent webinar, Nigerian delegates and other members of World Trade Organisation (WTO) discussed the impact of subsidies on health and sustainability of the blue economy.
Fish is an important source of food. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has pointed out that the small-scale fisheries sector is vital to the success and sustainability of the blue economy. Fifty per cent of seafood globally, analysts said, is supplied by small scale fisheries. Also, they said the supply chain in the small-scale fisheries provides livelihood for millions of women.
But growth in industrial scale fishing deployed by advanced countries in the West African waters is nosediving and putting the livelihoods of local fishermen at risk. Despite the fact that overfishing is threatening ocean health, the WTO observed that many governments have paid subsidies to their fishing fleets, helping them fish beyond levels that are biologically sustainable. According to WTO, governments spend $22.2 billion yearly as subsidies on overfishing. These subsidies paid to help offset the costs of vessel fuel, upgrades, port renovations, and other expenses, enable industrial fleets to fish farther and longer.
For instance, West Africa, recognised as one of the world’s richest fishing grounds with snapper, grouper, sardines, mackerel and shrimp, loses up to $1.5 billion worth of fish yearly to vessels fishing in protected zones or without proper equipment or licenses. Throughout West Africa, the World Economic Forum report said, the artisanal fishing sector is a major source of livelihood and food security.
Significantly, in Nigeria, the report noted, artisanal fishing accounts for 80 per cent of the fish consumed and supports the livelihoods of about 24 million people. WTO said the time had come to end harmful subsidies, some of which support illegal fishing. Speaking during a virtual meeting organised by WTO, its Director-General, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said to protect vulnerable people and their livelihoods, it was necessary for trade ministers to discuss new global rules limiting government’s support for the industry. The Nation