Samoa and Pacific Island nations call for elimination of fishing subsidies

Samoa has joined other Pacific countries calling for the elimination of fishery subsidies.

The subsidies are a major concern of the American Samoa based US fishing fleet faced with stiff competition in the region from the Chinese fishing fleet that is subsidized by the Chinese government.

Fishing subsidies were among the issues on the agenda at last week’s 10th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya, where Samoa — which became a WTO member in 2010 — was represented by a delegation led by Mene Sooalo, who is the Associate Minister of Commerce, Industry and Labour.

In his address to the conference, Sooalo says Samoa is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean and “fisheries is an integral part of our way of life. Fisheries provide food and livelihoods for our communities and the sustainable management of our fisheries resources is of utmost importance,” according to a copy of his written statement released by WTO.

“Samoa does not support destructive and harmful subsidies that will contradict our work in food security; and efforts to fulfill the recently adopted 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, to eliminate harmful subsidies on fisheries by 2020,” he said.

For Tonga, the island kingdom’s Minister for Commerce and Labour, Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa, noted that given the importance of the fisheries sector for Tonga, “our government continues to promote sector growth in a sustainable way.”

“Fisheries is critical for livelihoods and local food security for the majority of our people, many of whom are small scale artisanal fishermen and women,” he said, according to his written statement presented to the conference. “We support potential outcomes on the elimination of capacity enhancing fisheries subsidies that have negative impacts on marine ecology, ecosystems, because these ultimately undermine our quest for sustainable development.

 “Our challenge here is to balance sustainability and trade concerns with appropriate flexibilities for small and vulnerable economies that lack the capacity and resources to provide harmful levels of support,” he said.   In their joint statement presented to the conference, the Pacific WTO Group members stressed that fisheries is not only a trade issue but an integral part of the way of life for Pacific island nations.

The Pacific Group urged Ministerial Members to adopt a provision of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal agreement, which mandates all countries to eliminate harmful subsidies on fisheries by 2020.   Fisheries Subsidies was also the topic of a brief statement circulated ahead of the Nairobi meeting at the request of Colombia, New Zealand and Pakistan. It states in part that WTO has a central role in strengthening disciplines on subsidies in the fisheries sector, including through the prohibition of certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing. 

A joint statement towards the end of the conference by 22 countries — including the US and New Zealand — which are WTO members point out that fisheries subsidies contribute to economic losses in the fisheries sector and create serious distortions in global fish markets and serious impacts on food security and livelihoods, particularly in developing countries, and that effectively addressing fisheries subsidies will deliver trade, economic, development and environmental benefits.

Samoa News couldn’t immediate locate an official statement by the US government regarding fisheries subsidies and nothing from the U.S. was posted on the WTO website. -