By Chris Dove, SeafoodSource.com contributing editor, reporting from Malaga, Spain
Published on Thursday, January 12, 2012
As SeafoodSource reported last month, Spain is seeking compensation from the European Union after its trawlers’ access to Moroccan waters was blocked by the European Parliament following the rejection of a renewed Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) with Morocco.
Spain is the largest of the 11 EU member states authorized to fish in Moroccan waters, primarily off the coast of Western Sahara, backed by a EUR 36.1 million (USD 46 million) financial contribution. A Protocol to the FPA expired 27 February 2011.
A bone of contention is Parliament’s rejection of the FPA renewal in December, resulting in the immediate withdrawal of EU vessels from Moroccan waters. Parliament is in favor of a new, four-year FPA that takes into account the interests of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1976.
In protest at the decision to scrap the deal, 2,000 Spanish fishermen marched through the coastal town of Barbate in Cádiz, which is heavily economically dependent on Moroccan waters.
During his meeting with EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki in Brussels on Tuesday, Miguel Arias Cañete, Spain’s minister for Agriculture, Food and Environment, said: “We want the commission to negotiate an agreement as quickly as possible, and we’ve proposed a document from the Spanish and Moroccan fisheries sector that provides a framework of understanding to facilitate future negotiation of the fishing agreement.”
Cañete highlighted the Spanish government’s aim to engage in negotiations “to support the [European] Council to adopt a negotiating mandate for Parliament to approve,” with Damanaki noting that she expects to have the negotiating mandate approved by the council later this month.
Cañete also raised the need for compensatory measures to Spain’s fisheries. “We want the Commission to provide financial compensation to the owners and fishermen who have seen their economic activity interrupted by Parliament’s decision to cut the normal development of the agreement,” he said.
A total of 64 Spanish ships and 500 direct jobs are threatened by the stalemate in FPA discussions. Cañete is seeking a compensation package valued at EUR 15 to 16 million (USD 19 to 20 million).