Following the national elections in April 2014, the EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries met the newly appointed Prime Minister from Guinea Bissau and the Secretary of State for Fisheries to discuss cooperation in fisheries. Both parties agreed to reactivate the ratification procedure of the SFPA. A 3-year protocol was negotiated in 2012 but never entered into force following the military coup in Guinea Bissau in April 2012.
The 2012 protocol provided the EU with fishing opportunities for tuna, cephalopods and shrimps. The EU agreed to pay Guinea Bissau annual compensation of €9.2 million, including €3 million earmarked to support the Guinea Bissau fisheries policy. France, Portugal and Spain are the EU member states with the most interest in this fisheries agreement.
Other topics of mutual interest were raised during the meeting, notably the need to enhance cooperation in the fight against illegal fishing, to establish transparency and to ensure proper implementation of the EU’s support to the fisheries sector in Guinea Bissau.
In terms of transparency, it should be noted that Guinea Bissau has published the agreements it has with foreign countries or companies, including the EU, Senegal and China.
The country’s 4-year agreement with China to catch shrimps, cephalopods and demersal fish in fact covers only the activities of vessels from one Chinese company: China Fisheries National Corporation (CNFC). Other vessels of Chinese origin are also active in Guinean waters: in June, four Chinese vessels from the company Shi Hai started fishing in Guinea Bissau under chartering arrangements. Their activities will primarily supply the domestic markets. The press announced that the chartering transaction has been made for about €100,000.
The 3-year protocol negotiated between the EU and Guinea Bissau agreement contains provisions that only access to a surplus of resources such as shrimps and cephalopods should be granted to EU vessels, taking into consideration the need to maintain a sustainable fishing effort. This was based on the best scientific data available and in line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) (although the reform was not finalised at the time). One crucial element is the need to create full transparency of the overall fishing effort exerted by all fleets fishing in Guinean waters; the Guinea Bissau initiative to publicise its fishing agreements with third countries is, therefore, a commendable step. However, the context has changed since 2012, particularly with the arrival of Chinese-origin vessels, not covered by the Guinea Bissau–China/CNFC fisheries agreement protocol, which represents an additional fishing effort. To take that into account, the EC highlights that, if necessary, the two parties can adopt new measures to ensure the sustainable management of fish stocks, including the adjustment of fishing opportunities or closure of a fishery. In relation to the highly migratory species covered by the protocol, the parties undertake to comply with the recommendations of ICCAT, CECAF and SRFC.