The European Parliament Fisheries Committee has decided to postpone its vote on the EU–Mauritania protocol. In Mauritania, this is considered by many as a ‘first round victory’ for the Spanish ship owners, who expect the Joint Scientific Committee being held in early April to come up with recommendations that would confirm the good state of octopus stocks, and hope that this would reopen the possibilities for Spanish vessels to access this fishery.
Meanwhile, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel García-Margallo, met with the president of Mauritania to assess the FPA protocol. The president of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz, said he will help enable the Spanish fishing companies to settle in his country by obtaining jobs and participating in fisheries exports.
Reacting to this proposal to relocate their businesses in Mauritania, Spanish operators stressed that they are not reassured by the business climate in Mauritania. In the past, dozens of Spanish operators who invested in fishing joint ventures were deprived of their investments because of the lack of legal protection.
Confusion is made between the state of stocks, octopus in this case, and whether there is a ‘surplus’ of resources that can be caught by distant water fishing fleets, such as the EU. EU and Mauritanian scientists will together provide indications about the state of stocks, based on best available data. But it is up to the coastal state of Mauritania to decide who is going to catch these resources, and whether some of what cannot be caught locally can therefore be offered as ‘surplus’ to distant water fleets. The echo from the discussion between Mauritania’s president and the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister seems to indicate that Mauritania would prefer EU vessels to reflag to Mauritania – probably through the constitution of joint ventures – to replace an aging industrial fleet. If this was to be pursued – supposing Spanish operators would overcome their reluctance – a transparent framework should be put in place to ensure such transfer of capacities does not negatively affect the sustainability of the fisheries and dependent fishing communities.