By Chris Dove, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Malaga, Spain
Published on 24 January, 2013
The end of January signals the culmination of the year-long fishing dispute engulfing the European Union, Morocco and Spain.
The third round of negotiations on a new protocol took place this month in the Moroccan capital Rabat, the European Commission claimed “talks were held in a constructive atmosphere which will intensify with a next round foreseen in Brussels at the end of January.”
For Spain, mindful that the period of subsidizing compensation for the cessation of its fleet can’t be extended beyond the one-year deadline, and urging the return of its fleet to Moroccan waters rich in tuna and pelagic species, the agreement can’t come soon enough.
The four-year renewable agreement earmarks EUR 13.5 million (USD 18.1 million) per year to Morocco to support the sustainability of its waters. The new agreement scheduled 2011 to 2015 was extended with a protocol to 2012, but despite Spain’s optimism that technical and economic aspects can be overcome, the risk remains that the European Parliament could yet reject the new terms, leading to further delays if renegotiations are required.
Access to Moroccan waters is particularly important to Andalusian communities in southern Spain. Delays to renegotiating new terms have frustrated the Fishermen's Guild of Algeciras in Cádiz – Andalucía’s biggest such guild — whose president María Oliva Corrales is critical of the hold-up’s impact on members’ boats unable to enter Moroccan grounds.
“The situation is very bad,” Corrales told SeafoodSource. “We’ve had three rounds of discussions, we’re going into the fourth round in Brussels next week, but there’s still no official decision on port departure and entry hours.”
Added to the lack of access to grounds around the nearby Rock of Gibraltar while negotiations on this separate dispute continue, Corrales claims there were once many boats operating in Algeciras but now “the sector is dead.”
Her concerns have not fallen on deaf ears as Spain’s secretary general of fisheries Carlos Domínguez announced the Fisheries Management Plan for the Gulf of Cádiz this week for trawl, purse seine and artisan operators.
The plan sets daily landing and quarterly catch limits for 2013, establishes predetermined periods for Norway lobster fishing to ensure landings are made when prices are at their best in summer and December, and creates a management system for anchovy quotas.