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India seeks curbs at WTO on fishing in distant waters


India has pitched for reduction in fishing capacity of countries that fish in distant waters or in the territorial waters of other countries, in a bid to balance overfishing subsidy restrictions with the special needs of developing and least-developed countries.

New Delhi has submitted a proposal at the World Trade Organization (WTO), stating that developing countries not engaged in distant water fishing should be exempt from overfishing subsidy prohibitions for 25 years, and only those that have overexploited the environment should bear the cost of managing the problem.

“India has said developing countries that are not engaged in distant water fishing should be exempt from overfishing subsidy prohibitions for 25 years,” said a Geneva-based official.

India made its submission at the ongoing negotiations to finalise disciplines to eliminate subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, ahead of a key ministerial conference of the WTO later this year.

However, New Delhi has retained the exception in the chair’s text for artisanal and low-income fishers, but said it should be without the time and geographic limit contained in the chair’s text.

“India’s proposal supports the “polluter pays” approach, by targeting distant water fishing nations in the bulk of prohibitions for subsidies related to overfishing,” the official said.

As per the proposal, overfishing would be self-determined by a member or by Regional Fishery Management Organisation for waters under their respective jurisdictions. This is in contrast to the hybrid approach in the chair’s text that presumed certain types of subsidies to be contributing to overfishing, such as subsidies for vessel construction, fuel, income support, if no measures are in place to maintain stocks at healthy levels.

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