EU-Mauritania fisheries agreement will test MEPs’ adherence to the principles of the new CFP

More than 50 EU vessels have already started fishing in Mauritania under a new EU-Mauritania fisheries agreement – but they risk being thrown out if Spain manages to convince MEPs to stop the agreement in the European Parliament on 8 October.

The fisheries committee in the European Parliament voted on the 29 May to reject the new fisheries agreement between EU and Mauritania. A majority of fisheries MEPs followed the rapporteur, Gabriel Mato (EPP, Spain), who argued that the agreement should be rejected because it does not give EU vessels any quota for octopus in Mauritanian waters.

However, the MEPs who voted in favour of the agreement argued that it is exactly because there is a zero quota for octopus that the agreement should be approved, as this follows a principle that the Parliament has defended in the past:

* The new common fisheries policy (CFP), on which the Council and Parliament agreed earlier this year, states that EU fishing vessels shall only have access to surplus fish.

* In a resolution adopted in 2011 the European Parliament insisted that EU-flagged vessels shall only be allowed access to Mauritanian fish stocks that have a scientifically determined surplus, and to the resources which are unable to be caught by the Mauritanian fleet.

The EU-Mauritania Joint Scientific Committee has confirmed that the octopus stock was over-exploited in 2012 and that ‘the Mauritanian fleets alone have the capacity to catch the production potential of this stock’ today. It is thus in line with both the new CFP and the resolution on Mauritania that the new EU-Mauritania agreement sets a zero quota for Mauritanian octopus.

The Spanish octopus fleet is not happy about being excluded from Mauritanian waters.

But the agreement does not only cover octopus.

On 11 September 2013, 54 EU vessels had started fishing for species like tuna, black hake and pelagic fish in Mauritania, according to the European Commission. The vessels come from Spain, France, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Portugal.

EU vessels will also get more beneficial access to shrimp fishing areas, following a decision at an EU-Mauritania meeting 17 and 18 September. It is therefore becoming more likely that EU shrimp vessels will begin fishing in Mauritania.

Despite 26 Spanish vessels already having licenses in Mauritania, the Spanish government is maintaining public opposition to the Mauritania agreement. On 9 September FIS reported that the Spanish government would use “persuasion” to convince MEPs to reject the agreement in plenary.

If the agreement were to be rejected, the European operators who have currently taken licenses to fish in Mauritanian waters would have to leave without notice.

Both the development and budget committees recommended that the European Parliament should approve the EU-Mauritania fisheries agreement.

How to follow the debate and the vote
The debate will take place after 17:00 on Monday 7 October 2013. The vote will take place between 12:00 – 14:00 on Tuesday 8 October 2013. Both can be watched live on the web through Séance en direct.

Related documents
Gabriel Mato’s recommendation on the EU-Mauritania agreement
EP Library briefing on EU-Mauritania fisheries agreements (17.06.2013)
Legislative Observatory with documents on this file

Other stories about Mauritania
Despite lack of surplus, Spain insists on access to Mauritanian octopus (16.04.2013)
Criticism of plan to pay fishermen for not fishing in Mauritania (21.09.2012)
European Parliament adopts resolution on renewing the EU-Mauritania fisheries agreement (12.05.2011)

Axel Naver

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