By Edrissa Jallow
The Gambia and the United Kingdom (UK) signed the instruments of acceptance of the fisheries subsidies before the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Wednesday 13th December 2023. Meanwhile, the UK pledged 1 million pounds sterling (£1,000,000) to support the WTO Fisheries Funding Mechanism.
The Gambia was represented by the Hon Minister of Interior, Seyaka Sonko, while the UK was represented by its Minister of State (Development and Africa) Andrew Mitchell.
According to the WTO publication, dated 13th December 2023, the subsidy aims to “prohibit support for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, bans support for fishing over-fished stocks and ends subsidies for fishing on the unregulated high seas”.
Just this month, our reporter joined local fishermen in the sea for a day to fetch first-hand information where he learned and reported how overfishing by foreign trawlers is affecting local fishermen and the Gambia’s coastal environment daily.
It could be recalled in 2018 the European Union and The Gambia’s Ministry of Fisheries and Water Resources signed a Sustainable Fishing Partnership agreement which included “fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance and fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing” among others.
Nonetheless, the aforementioned agreements appear to be ineffective as local fishermen say encroachments have become the order of the day. The agreement also gives EU fishing vessels access to fish in The Gambia.
Speaking to the WTO, Interior Minister, Seyaka Sonko, said it was a “great pleasure to present the instrument [of acceptance] on behalf of the Gambia government” and the government is “extremely proud of being the first least-developed country (LDC) to make this presentation”.
In addition, the WTO report also captures the voice of the Gambia’s Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, Baboucarr Ousmaila Joof who states that the presentation of the instruments is a major step to sustain the marine practices as well as preserving the oceanic ecosystems.
“By addressing the challenges of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and over-fished stocks by eliminating harmful subsidies, we are protecting our marine resources and safeguarding our coastal communities’ livelihoods. As a coastal state, the Gambia recognizes the critical role of sustainable fisheries for our national economy and the well-being of future generations,” said Minister Joof.
UK Pledges £1 Million to the WTO Fisheries Fund
UK’s Minister of State (Development and Africa), Andrew Mitchell expressed his delight after depositing the instrument on behalf of the United Kingdom. He pledged one million pounds sterling (£1,000,000) on behalf of the government of the UK to support the WTO Fisheries Fund.
Mr Mitchell informed WTO that the landmark agreement is “vitally important for the world’s fish, for the fishing communities who depend on those fish, for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and for multilateral”. However, Minister Mitchell said, “the work isn’t finished. We strongly back the efforts to conclude the second stage of negotiations — to tackle the most harmful subsidies — ahead of the next WTO ministerial conference, MC13.”
“And I have been delighted to pledge up to one million pounds to the new WTO fisheries fund, through the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA’s) Blue Planet Fund, to support the effective implementation of this agreement by developing nations,” Minister Mitchell pledges.
According to the World Trade Organization, the Fisheries Fund Mechanism was created purposely to “provide targeted technical assistance and capacity building to help developing and least-developed country members with implementation”.
Gambia is the First LDC to Present the Instrument of the Fisheries Subsidy
Expressing sincere appreciation to The Gambia and The UK for submitting the instrument, WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala revealed that The Gambia is the first least-developed country to ratify the instrument.
“I am delighted to receive the formal acceptance of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies by the Gambia, the first least-developed country to do so. I also heartily welcome the UK’s formal acceptance of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, and am grateful for its pledge to the Fisheries Funding Mechanism,” said the WTO Director General.
DG Iweala added that the acceptance is a “testament to the widespread recognition of the pressing need to protect our oceans,” as “each new acceptance marks a step forward in our collective efforts to curb harmful fisheries subsidies, preserve marine resources, and safeguard the welfare of the people that depend on them”.