South Africa made a historic commitment to sustainable fishing practices by depositing its instrument of acceptance of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies at the thirteenth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) held in Abu Dhabi from 26 February to 2 March 2024.

During the closing ceremony, Minister Patel was called to officially deposit the instrument with the WTO Director-General, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

South Africa played a leading role in the conclusion of the agreement during talks in Geneva in 2022 at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, helping to broker a compromise that led to a unanimous decision by all WTO members to approve the agreement.

The agreement was ratified last week, 27 February 2024, by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), following approval by the National Assembly on 20 February 2024, the previous week. It had been approved by Cabinet on 29 November 2023.

South Africa became the 71st out of 164 World Trade Organisation members to ratify the agreement.

The Fisheries Subsidies Agreement, hailed as a ground-breaking international trade accord, places environmental sustainability at its core. By prohibiting subsidies to illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, as well as banning support for fishing overfished stocks and activities on the unregulated high seas, the agreement marks a significant step forward in global efforts to preserve marine ecosystems.

Minister Patel emphasised the critical importance of combatting IUU fishing, which not only depletes marine resources but also undermines the livelihoods of coastal communities.

“This agreement protects South African fishing communities from the effects of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. These practices have a severe impact on coastal states, leading to the depletion of marine resources and depriving coastal communities of their livelihoods. Addressing the problem is crucial in ensuring food security and preserving biodiversity across the Continent’s waters.  This significant milestone will contribute to our global efforts to safeguard living marine resources for present and future generations,” said Minister Patel.

The Fisheries Subsidies Agreement will come into effect upon ratification by two-thirds of WTO Members.

Bongani Lukhele – Director: Media Relations
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Issued by: The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic)

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