Scientists Urge WTO To End Harmful Fisheries Subsidies

About 300 scientists from six continents including prominent environmental economists and scientists from Ghana have urged the World Trade Organization (WWTO) members to end harmful fisheries subsidies and protect the ocean’s health.

The scientists, who range from economists and biologists to nutritionists and health specialists, in a letter published in the journal Science on October 29 called on WTO members to reach an agreement this year that eliminates all destructive fisheries subsidies, which could help “to curb overfishing, biodiversity degradation and loss, and CO2 emissions, and to safeguard food and livelihoods.”

Among other requests, the letter asked WTO members to prohibit subsidies that make it cheaper to purchase vessel fuel and that allow distant-water fishing on the high seas or in the waters of other nations.

These types of subsidies unfairly disadvantage small-scale fishers in developing countries, making it harder for them to compete with large, industrial-scale fishing fleets from developed nations.

Dean of the School of Research and Graduate Studies at the Ghana Institute of Management & Public Administration, Prof. Wisdom Akpalu, a fisheries scientists and coastal management expert with the University of Ghana, Prof. Francis Kofi Ewusi Nunoo, and coastal ecologist and Director of the Centre for Coastal Management at UCC Prof. Denis Ahetor, were among the scientists who signed the letter.

Prof. Wisdom Akpalu said, “Harmful fisheries subsidies enable developed nations to engage in distant-water fishing at an industrial scale in the waters of developing countries. Local fishers throughout Africa cannot compete with such foreign fleets.

If the World Trade Organization members heed the calls of scientists from across the globe and strike a deal that ends harmful fisheries subsidies, depleted fish populations could rebound, boosting coastal communities and stemming international migration across the continent.”

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri