Different parts of the sector affected by the EU–Mauritanian FPA protocol have expressed their concerns. Although the Spanish fleets are the most affected by the protocol, fleets from nine other member states also operate in Mauritanian waters (including France, Italy, Portugal, and the Netherlands). Ports such as Las Palmas, therefore, where many EU fleets active in Mauritania were landing their catches, are also affected.
The Galician and Canary Islands’ octopus fleets – no longer permitted to fish in Mauritania – want the EU–Mauritania FPA protocol to be rejected outright. A representative of the Galician fleet highlighted that: ‘this is the final battle … there is no alternative to Mauritanian waters, because the other African countries either have very little fishing grounds (Gambia), are closed for political reasons (Guinea Bissau), or require joint ventures (Senegal).’
However, Galician fish importers are already adapting to the new situation, and have started to import frozen octopus from Mauritania. A local fish-importing company stated that currently they already have more than 30 containers of octopus in store.
The president of European national fishing organisations, Europêche, reiterated the need to find a solution to improve the protocol’s technical and economic conditions. Otherwise, the denunciation provision in the protocol, in case fishing opportunities are not sufficiently used, should be activated. He recalled that although the tuna vessels, and some others, have requested licences under the new protocol, issues still exist for the other categories, and he has proposed an urgent meeting between the two parties to solve these problems.
Echoing this demand, the EC has announced that a meeting of the EU–Mauritania FPA Joint Committee will take place at the end of February, when some ‘improvements regarding certain technical conditions’ could be discussed. However, the EC also emphasised that renegotiation is not an option, as this would probably result in all EU fleets having to leave Mauritanian waters.
The views from the various parts of the EU fishing sector show that some segments of the EU fleet, as well as importing companies, have been able to adapt to the conditions negotiated. The significant quantities of octopus imports from Mauritania tend to confirm that local fleets – the only ones currently active in the octopus fisheries – have the capacity to harvest and meet the requirements to export this resource to Europe themselves. This will promote local development in Mauritania. For fleets already fishing under the FPA, a rejection of the protocol, followed by potential negotiations, would in practice mean a closure of the fisheries for a considerable time because of the ‘exclusivity clause’ contained in the agreement (which obliges EU fleets to fish only under an FPA protocol).