Fishery Food & Health WTO

Suspension of subsidies for fishermen through WTO agreement will affect millions of fishers

Suspension of subsidies for fishermen through WTO agreement will affect millions of fishers
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Suspension of subsidies for fishermen through the WTO agreements will affect millions of fishers.

According to sources, the government subsidy provided to Indian fishermen enables the community to engage in fishing activities to support their livelihood, and prohibiting such measures through a WTO agreement will ultimately affect millions of fishers and their families, leading to poverty.

Under the proposed fisheries subsidies agreement, developed members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are pushing to eliminate subsidies. India is not a major provider of fishery subsidies, in contrast to China, the European Union (EU), and the United States, which provide annual fishery subsidies totaling $7.3 billion, $3.8 billion, and $3.4 billion, respectively. In 2018, India provided only $277 million to small fishers.

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The total marine fisherfolk population is 3.77 million, with 0.90 million families, according to the CMFRI (Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute) Census 2016. Almost 67.3 percent of the fishermen’s families fell into the BPL category.

‘The cessation of subsidy assistance to fishermen in India will eventually affect millions of fishermen and their families, leading to poverty,’ one of the sources said. There are approximately 2 lakh fishing boats, with only 59,000 (37%) being mechanized. The estimated fisheries potential is approximately 4.4 million tonnes, with marine capture production in 2019 totaling 3.8 million tonnes.

Traditional fisheries, according to sources, involve fishing households using relatively small amounts of capital and relatively small fishing vessels, typically around 20 meters in overall length, making short trips close to the shores. In India, the marine fishery is also small-scale and provides food security for millions of people; there is no industrial fishing.

Industrial fishing by developed nations, on the other hand, involves large fishing vessels conducting fishing activities on high seas beyond exclusive economic zones, which is harmful to fish stocks.

‘Indian fishers have been practicing traditional and sustainable fishing practices for thousands of years, and it is only subsistence fishing.’ The fishers’ traditional and cultural beliefs help them conserve and protect Indian fisheries’ resources. ‘The government also supports sustainable fisheries by declaring fishing holidays for a period of 61 days and requiring the states concerned to implement the Fisheries Regulation Act,’ they said.

The population of Indian marine fishers exceeds that of 112 countries. Only 122 countries have more people than India’s marine fisher population. To protect the interests of the Indian fisher population, a group of 34 Indian fishermen from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and West Bengal has arrived.

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They are demanding that the subsidy be restricted to industrial fishing rather than subsistence fishing, as blocking subsidies for subsistence fishing will prevent fishermen from surviving. India is taking a tough stance on fisheries subsidies, demanding that developed countries that currently provide non-specific fuel subsidies be held accountable.

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, who is leading the Indian delegation here, has made it clear that the country will not sign any agreement if the developed world puts pressure on it.