The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) organized an event to explore the links between production and trade in fisheries and aquaculture, with a particular focus on chains of sustainable and resilient value. He also underlined the importance of the new World Trade Organization (WTO) rules on fisheries subsidies to ensure the sustainability of common resources and strengthen the multilateral trading system (MTS).
The session took place on September 30, 2021 as part of the 2021 WTO Public Forum.
Marcio Castro de Souza, FAO, moderated the event. He introduced the subject by pointing out that fish is currently the most traded animal protein in the world, with production organized around complex and highly integrated value chains. The fisheries and aquaculture sectors, he noted, have grown considerably over the past decades, especially in developing countries, but have also faced significant challenges in adapting to different crises.
Two private companies involved in aquaculture and wild marine captures in developed and developing countries provided examples. Citlali Gómez, Neminatura, shared his company’s experience in aquaculture trout production in Mexico. She highlighted the challenges faced by climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on labor availability, value chains and markets. Among the responses, she mentioned the shift from food service to the retail market, exploring new sales opportunities at local, regional and national levels and developing activities in the tourism sector.
John Keeler, Blue Star Foods, compared his company’s experience in small-scale artisanal fisheries in Southeast Asia with its operations in the aquaculture sector in Canada. He explained that the marine fishing sector is “deeply” affected by both the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of climate change, and described some of the strategies developed by fishermen to adapt, such as the reduction of treasury and financing activities or programs. developed through cooperatives. In contrast, land-based aquaculture systems are less affected by external factors and are better equipped to cope with supply chain disruptions, Keeler said. He also highlighted the Government of Canada’s financial support for Earth systems throughout the pandemic. Building on these two separate examples, Keeler called for further strengthening of the existing supply chain to deal with future crises with a focus on sustainability, livelihoods and food security. He also highlighted the need to explore multiple sales channels to build resilience.
Thais Valerio de Mesquita, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, provided an assessment of the impacts of future WTO disciplines on fisheries subsidies. She argued that even in the absence of a final agreement, the past 20 years of WTO negotiations have already had significant impacts, leading to heightened awareness of the problems associated with certain forms of support and of the benefits. resulting from other forms of this type. Valerio de Mesquita noted that the importance of tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and reforming harmful subsidies is now recognized at the highest political level. New regional trade agreements (RTAs), she said, include disciplines on fisheries subsidies, as exemplified by the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), while national governments have Realized the importance of reforming existing fisheries subsidy regimes, as evidenced by the reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy. She further highlighted the increased awareness of the private sector on the need to invest in sustainable practices and of consumers who now demand more sustainable products.
Valerio de Mesquita said that a future WTO agreement would anchor this development in the sector, ensure synergies between different regimes and increase coherence in international governance. By combining binding disciplines ‘with bite’ and a system of checks and balances, such an agreement would also ensure that the rules are not set by the market or the big players but by consensus among members.
On the importance of cooperation, James Brown, Ministry of Primary Industries, New Zealand, highlighted that the fishing industry is highly globalized, not only in terms of trade, investment and labor, but also because fish and ships move across jurisdictions. He said cooperation featured heavily in the law of the sea and in a series of specific instruments such as the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement or the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. He also stressed the need for cooperation to address a wide range of environmental issues beyond fish, to combat IUU fishing and to reform harmful subsidies to fishing.
Brown noted that the interface between fisheries and trade is increasingly being addressed in the context of regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs), for example through catch documentation programs, certifications and measures. market, but also through disciplines on services, including port services, financial services, and banking and insurance services in the context of the fight against IUU fishing. In RTAs, he said, the disciplines relate not only to fisheries subsidies, but also to commitments to combat IUU fishing and improve fisheries management.
He said cooperation is also essential in the implementation of market state measures aimed at preventing imports of IUU products in order to avoid unnecessary barriers to trade resulting from divergences in regulations. Brown concluded by citing positive examples of cooperation in the context of RFMOs despite the pandemic, at the WTO where negotiations are continuing with momentum, in the recent Group of 7 (G7) communiqué on oceans and fisheries, and in the context of the FAO Committee on Fisheries Declaration (COFI) for Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture issued by Ministers earlier this year. [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources] [WTO Public Forum 2021]
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The 11th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) and SDG target 14.6 give members the task of reaching agreement on the elimination of IUU fishing subsidies and outlawing certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute overcapacity and overfishing by the end of 2020. WTO members have pledged to build on their progress in 2020 and reach a resolution in 2021. MC12 is to meet in Geneva, in Switzerland, from November 30 to December 3, 2021.