Deliberations are storming on how and where the government must apply the action for their post-COVID-19 economic recovery plans. Are they going to support economic groups that are generally causing irreversible destruction to the environment and the world – like the fossil fuels sector? Or does their plan provide the opportunity to bring consumption and production patterns to a sufficient level to achieve sustainable development?
How we utilize and act on our ocean resources must be part and parcel of this deliberation. The options we have are whether to keep pouring public funding into practices that support large industrial fishing boats and operations that are placing the ocean in danger – or instead to incite action that would help us improve and rehabilitate marine life and biodiversity. The World Trade Organization has been dealing with this concern for several years now, and it is also etched in the Sustainable Development Goals sanctioned by the United Nations General Assembly. There is no other time for action, but NOW.
As devastating as the coronavirus pandemic is, there may be a comforting prospect. It may be able to provide the world a chance to nurture a viable ocean economy that places the people and the ocean first by ending the negative practice of harmful fishing – that is, subsidies that result in over-exploitation and overfishing.
The paired problems of ocean diversity exhaustion and COVID-19 require that governments across the world concentrate their funds on things that matter most, not to spend to afflict us by destroying the diverse ocean ecosystem and the livelihood of millions who are depending on it to thrive.
The Pandemic – An Opportunity
Instead of being a hindrance to restricting harmful fishing subsidies, for instance, the COVID-19 outbreak must be seen as a chance to reach a viable deal with the World Trade Organization on ending or transmitting the present harmful fisheries, which are estimated to be about $22 billion yearly. Governments are continually providing funds to help low-income households, seniors, students, and small to medium-scale business owners. Perhaps a part of these funds should be allocated to minor ocean economic activities that have inspired people to care for nature, and vice versa, of course, instead of doing the opposite.
Financial support that aid in eliminating overfishing, illegal fishing, overcapacity, and other dangerous ocean economic activities as well as help in low-income carbon economic transition, is key to better people and ocean biodiversity.
Subsidies Are Obstructing Sustainable Development Goals
Financial aids that are inappropriately given to the large industrial fishing sectors undermine the SDG by worsening poverty, gender inequality, and hunger in seaside communities worldwide. Such deficiencies implemented on these communities that mostly depend on fish and other seafood for a living have pushed fishers to literally ‘catch the last fish’ no matter what, instilling negative behavior people to nature, and ultimately from nature to the people.
Government subsidies must be focused on ocean monitoring as well as global climate change improvements and rehab projects that bring jobs to communities that have been tremendously affected by oil and gas development and overfishing. Native communities, on the other hand, have been placed at risk defending their rights and their environment as well. Countries must be encouraged to support programs that offer better economic opportunities to these front liners while they contribute to a workable ocean economy.
In many ways, fish and people are the same. A person who is mentally and physically well is in a much better position to overcome a coronavirus infection than someone who has preexisting illnesses. Overfishing is an existing situation that has been here for decades, and it needs to be eliminated by ending its financial support. This, in turn, will finally put a stop to illegal fishing and overcapacity, both of which have caused deoxygenation, ocean acidification, global warming, and marine pollution, among many others.
By achieving the goals set by the SDG, the government will have shown that despite the bashing and criticisms, the World Trade Organization plays a vital role in getting things done and repairing our planet to its fullest potential – despite and amidst COVID-19.