The content of the new proposed protocol between EU and Mauritania was published on September 2012. The main changes include:
- Access to cephalopods fisheries exclusively granted to the Mauritanian national fleets, as long as no surplus will be available;
- changes regarding the fishing zones accessible to EU trawlers, with the aim to protect mainly overexploited stocks of sardinella;
- a substantial increase in contributions by boat owners to access costs;
- payments to be made according to quantities of fish caught;
- the introduction of a ‘non-discrimination’ clause in the proposed protocol, so that other distant-water fleets, such as those of Russia, Ukraine and China, operate under the same technical and financial conditions as the EU fleets.
During a meeting with the European fishing sector operating in Mauritania, which has expressed its strong opposition to the new protocol, the European Fisheries Commissioner told the sector that the EC had ‘returned from Mauritania’ with ‘the best agreement that could be reached’. However, she said that the EC would ‘analyse all the possibilities to redirect the bilateral fisheries agreement’.
The European fishing sector, represented by Europêche, emphasised that if they took up these fishing provisions, they would lose money, and they regretted that the EC was not stopping the ratification process of the protocol, which is to be voted on in the Parliament and Council in the coming months.
Meanwhile, in a press release, the Spanish Fisheries Minister expressed his satisfaction regarding the ‘European support’ shown at the last Council meeting for the renegotiation of the agreement with Mauritania. Four EU member states involved in fishing operations in the Mauritanian EEZ – Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Portugal – signed a joint letter asking for technical conditions, in particular the fishing zones, to be improved for European vessels.
One of the most important aspects of the new proposed protocol, which is likely to promote improvements in the management of fisheries across the board, is the decision taken by Mauritania and the EU to apply a non-discriminatory approach to all distant-water fleets accessing Mauritanian waters, so that the same technical and financial conditions apply to all.
Currently, these sustainable fishing conditions present difficulties for some of the fleets involved, particularly trawlers fleets. However, it is not clear whether such conditions will also apply in the future to Mauritanian fleets. This could be an incentive for some vessels to reflag to Mauritania in order to benefit from more easy access conditions, but without respecting the same level of sustainability, as has been recently shown by the reflagging of some Chinese vessels targeting octopus.