The European Parliament, which has to give consent to the new EU–Mauritania FPA protocol, organised a hearing with experts at its Fisheries Committee meeting in January 2013, to discuss issues arising from the protocol and to present the rapporteur’s views.
Earlier in January, the rapporteur published his draft recommendation, in which he proposed that the European Parliament should reject the protocol and start new negotiations. The rapporteur’s main reasons include:
- the lack of access to the Mauritanian octopus fishery for the EU fishing boats
- the decrease in the size of fishing zones accessible to various fleets
- the higher costs for the EU and for ship owners – in some cases an increase of 300–400%.
Similar views were expressed at the hearing by representatives of some European fleets, who were called as experts. The director of Oceanic Development, the company which undertook the EU–Mauritania FPA evaluation, emphasised that technical conditions contained in this protocol are intended to better protect ecosystems and to avoid conflicts with local fleets. Concerning the ship owners’ fees, his presentation compared the access costs with the value of the catches made, and showed an important variation between the different fleets: if, for tuna vessels, access costs represent only 2% of the value of the catches, this ratio is 8% in the case of shrimp trawlers, and between 10 and 20% for small pelagic vessels.
In his intervention, the president of the Mauritanian small-scale fishers supported the protocol, which only provides access to resources that cannot be caught by local fleets: ‘What can be caught by the Mauritanian fishermen must be reserved for them.’ He also considered that pushing trawlers further away from the coast is a positive development, insisting on the by-catch issue: ‘Do you realise … that half of our stock of sea bream was caught as by-catch by trawlers targeting sardinella?’ He questioned, however, whether anything had been achieved with the financial compensation: ‘We … regret that we have up to now seen nothing done by the EU in terms of investing in infrastructure or in technology transfer: ports, processing plants for our products, storage warehouses, training programs. Such investments are important if we want to develop a true ‘win-win’ partnership, which we hope to be able to do under this new Protocol.’
Such views were echoed by the European Parliament Development Committee, which supports the protocol and considers that Mauritania should be encouraged to use the financial compensation to improve its landing facilities, to promote women’s entrepreneurship in the fisheries sector, and to support monitoring and surveillance activities, as well as stock assessments.
The negotiated protocol answers many criticisms of its predecessors, particularly regarding the impacts of the EU vessels’ exploitation of Mauritanian resources, which were also exploited by local fleets. The new conditions are likely to minimise the interaction and competition between the local and EU fleets, thus laying a sound basis for a long-term partnership. This protocol also reflects the new approach proposed by the EC for future SFAs – an approach overwhelmingly supported by the European Parliament in its report on the future external dimension.