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West African efforts to promote sustainable fisheries: are they supported by FPAs?

07 November 2004

Given the worrying state of their fishing resources, west African countries are increasingly taking initiatives to promote sustainable fisheries.

In Senegal and Mauritania, September and October are the months traditionally given to a period of "biological res "tn the fishery. This period has now been formerly included in the local fisheries-management regimes. Amongst the fleets covered by this measure are the EU trawlers fishing under the bilateral fisheries agreements with these two countries, as well as the local trawlers fleet, often composed of re-flagged vessels originating from the EU.

Other measures have been taken by the Mauritanian authorities, such as:

  • the ban in its EEZ on mono-filament, considered to be an unselective fishing gear;
  • the introduction of a second biological rest period;
  • the introduction of the VMS (Vessel Monitoring System) for industrial vessels.

Future measures may include the ban on trawling at a depth of more than 20 metres. All these measures will affect the EU fleets.

Editorial comment

One of the most unselective fishing operations in the world is coastal trawling in tropical waters. However, both bilateral agreements with Mauritania, and to a lesser extent Senegal, provide access for such trawler fleets targeting high-value species like shrimps and octopus. So, a further temporary stop for fishing activities through the introduction of a second biological rest period may be seen as a "damage limitatio "neasure important for the recuperation of the resource. However, until now, EU trawlers have opposed that measure.

Similarly, the ban on monofilament imposed on all fleets in Mauritania is not respected by EU fleets. Concerning the introduction of VMS, EU fleets have been asking for 15 days to complete repairs in the case of breakdowns of the monitoring equipment, although the national Mauritanian regulation allows for only five days.

At a meeting organised by the EU advisory committee on fisheries and aquaculture, the directorate general for fish invoked a technical problem which he said would make it difficult for Mauritania to organise the repair in five days: "Surely, in light of the conclusions of the Council on Fisheries Partnerships, this would suggest that efficient support should be given by the EU so that Mauritania can lift this technical obstacle, rather than negotiating for a longer period to repair?, as this would open up the possibility of a period of effective decontrol.

It is clear that all this resistance from the EU side must be addressed if the EU is to be regarded as being serious about promoting sustainable fisheries and, as respecting national regulations of third states seeking to protect their local resources.


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