On 3 December 2012, the European Council voted positively for the provisional application of the fisheries partnership agreement (FPA) protocol between the EU and Mauritania, which covers a period of two years. The next step is ratification by the European Parliament, which has to give its consent; the vote in the Fisheries Committee is scheduled for March 2013.
At the previous Council meeting at the end of November 2012, the Dutch delegation briefed the other member states about a possible underuse of the protocol to this agreement. Several other delegations shared the concerns of the Netherlands, and the Council would like the joint EU–Mauritania technical committee to re-discuss some of the technical conditions of this protocol.
In their request, the Netherlands asked for an assessment of the effective use of the protocol and ‘appropriate measures to be taken in line with article 5 of the protocol’. This article provides that the protocol could be terminated if the use of fishing opportunities by EU fleets is reduced.
Earlier, in October 2012, a Mauritanian civil society round-table discussion on the agreement protocol was held in Nouakchott. The participants felt that the proposed protocol should be adopted ‘as is’, without new negotiations. In particular, the access to octopus should be exclusively reserved for national fishermen, in particular artisanal, and the local landing of all products resulting from the fishing operations in the Mauritanian EEZ should be mandatory.
They also requested that the principle of non-discrimination of treatment between all foreign fleets should be applied. Given the rising local market, in particular for small pelagics, they called for support, as part of the partnership, for the development of a local purse-seiner fleet, fishing sardinellas for local and regional human consumption.
In negotiating with Mauritania, the EC has already applied the principles expressed in its communication regarding the future CFP, which should ensure that EU fleets operate sustainably in third-country waters. These principles were supported by the Council when it adopted its conclusions on the future external dimension in March 2012. The adoption of the Mauritania FPA by the Council is a positive step, putting into practice what it called for in theory. Obviously, some issues remain concerning the economic profitability of some fleets under the conditions of the agreement; these will have to be solved in the near future to allow profitable utilisation of the fishing possibilities negotiated.