Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) says the removal of subsidies on fisheries will sustain fishery globally.
Okonjo-Iweala said this when she paid a courtesy visit to the Minister of State for Industry, Trade, and Investment on Tuesday in Abuja.
According to her, there is a subsidy that allows nations with large oceans to over-fish globally and the WTO has been trying to negotiate the agreement on fisheries for 21 years.
She said that if the subsidy was not stopped, fisheries would be depleted, adding that a recent study had shown that there was almost 50 percent of over-fishing.
She said that about 260 million people globally and 12 million in Africa directly or indirectly depended on fisheries.
“It is mainly the developing countries that cannot monitor the waters where there are lots of reported fisheries.
“We need to rectify the agreement and deposit the instrument of acceptance for this particular agreement.
” We need two-thirds of countries globally to deposit their instrument of acceptance for the agreement to come into effect.
“I would like my country Nigeria to be the first or second to deposit their agreement,” she said.
Okonjo-Iweala said that the line of the agreement took two to three years, adding that it should be between six to nine months “to enable us to get desired results”.
“We need to act fast, the agreement deals with the unregulated, illegal, and unreported fishery, it is a very good agreement, you can not subsidize this kind of fishery.
“Countries and members that are doing these things have to stop because we have an agreement now, ” she said.
According to her, for the agreement to be beneficial, there is a need to improve the capacity to implement the agreement as well as the management capacity for fisheries.
“We have identified key points. Article seven is what I push because many developing countries do not have the capacity needed to manage their fisheries and that is the reason illegal fishery goes on in the waters.
“We started with a 20 million dollar fund and we have already mobilized five million dollars and will continue to mobilize because it is a rolling fund.
“This is to enable developing countries to build capacity for fisheries management under the agreement and we need to work together to put it into a document concept and finalize the structure over fisheries fund, ” she said.
Speaking Earlier, Amb. Marian Katagum, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade, and Investment said the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies had set new global rules to curb harmful subsidies
According to Katagum, it will also protect global fish stocks in a manner that also recognized the need for fishers in developing and least-developed countries.
Katagum said that the Agreement was a great milestone, adding that it enhanced food security and increased the source of livelihoods particularly, for lower-income families in rural and coastal areas.
According to her, Nigeria will take all the necessary steps for the acceptance of the protocol as well as deposit the ratification instrument.
“We will be playing a constructive role in the negotiations, especially with regards to the outstanding issues of forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and over-fishing.
“This is to ensure that we adopt a comprehensive discipline on Fisheries Subsidies before the four years envisaged in the decision,” she said.
She said that it was important to build the capacity of relevant institutions, ministries, and colleges of fisheries in the determination of over-fished stock in the Nigerian waters.
She said that it was based on the best scientific evidence which would trigger the prohibition in article four of the agreement.
The minister said that developing capacity in the calculation of a Biologically Sustainable Level (BSL) for a stock and demonstrating that subsidies would promote sufficient stock rebuilding.
“Technical Assistance in the development of fisheries management programs that maintained stocks at sustainable levels is also important
“The needed assistance includes WTO-funded National Programmes which may comprise workshops on the implementation of covered Agreements.
“We are also in need of assistance to Nigerian Universities in the field of Trade Policy Research, and other Technical Assistance programs offered by the WTO,” she said.
Katagum assured that Nigeria’s Trade Office to the WTO in Geneva would continue to engage constructively with the WTO Membership.
She commended Okonjo-Iweala for the visit and assured her of Nigeria’s proactiveness in the negotiations that would lead to the development of a more comprehensive discipline for submission at the 13th Ministerial Conference.