The Spanish Secretary-General of Fisheries has announced that €12.5 million is to be allocated in 2013 to help EU fleets affected by difficulties encountered in the context of the fishing agreements between the EU, Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau. In particular, €8.1 million of this will be in compensation for the ‘temporary cessation’ of activities of vessels operating in Mauritania, both for those who can apply for licences under the new agreement protocol but have so far refused to do so, and for the octopus vessels that are now excluded from the agreement. This money will also cover the last 2012 payment to boat owners affected by the non-renewal of the bilateral fishing agreement with Morocco. These amounts are the maximum that can be allocated, ‘because we do not know what will happen’, the Secretary-General said.
However, the fact that some European vessel owners refusing to fish in Mauritania are asking for financial compensation is coming under criticism. Some NGOs feel that the situation only highlights the fact that some trawlers active in Mauritania cannot be profitable under sustainable fishing conditions, while a representative of EU small-scale fisheries declared: ‘I don’t fish in Mauritania either – where do I apply for the cash?’
In the European Parliament and Council, the debate on the new EU–Mauritania protocol is showing a shift: an article on the website CFP Reform Watch notes that ‘In the past, northern European member states … often criticised the EU’s FPAs with West African states for being unsustainable. This time around, it is instead the southern European nations that oppose the deal because it restricts European fishing.' A similar divide exists between those who want to maintain subsidies for temporary and definitive cessation of fishing activities due to the non-renewal of an FPA, and those who do not.
In many ways, the new protocol between the EU and Mauritania is a blueprint for future FPAs under a reformed CFP. EC proposals for reform – such as the strict application of the surplus principle and a bigger share of the access costs to be paid by ship owners – have been put in practice. EU tuna fleets have adapted to these new conditions and taken licences with the new FPA protocol under provisional application, but other fleets, trawlers in particular, have had difficulties in complying with these new conditions. To address these difficulties, a structural long-term answer is needed.