EU, Spain still at odds over Morocco agreement
By Chris Dove, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Malaga, Spain
17 April, 2012
The stalemate between the European Parliament and Spain over prolonged talks aimed at establishing a new fisheries agreement with neighboring Morocco is dragging on.
Last December, Parliament rejected a proposed extension of the controversial agreement, resulting in Morocco prohibiting Spain from fishing its waters, which significantly affected Andalucía’s coastal town of Barbate in Cádiz as well as the Canary Islands, both of which are heavily economically dependent on catches from Moroccan grounds.
For example, in the first two months of 2012, Barbate’s catch of 181 metric tons had dropped dramatically from 847 metric tons in the corresponding period in 2011.
Spain has been pushing for a new agreement for months. Meeting with Barbate fishing representatives mid-March, Spanish Fisheries Minister Miguel Arias Cañete promised to “define a European strategy” and “step on the accelerator” in preparation for a technical meeting of European Union member states at the end of March, assuring them that “no technical difficulties” would stand in the way of approving a new agreement given the Moroccan government’s willingness to restart negotiations.
“I would like the agreement to start before 14 June,” said Cañete, calling for “a diplomatic strategy” with the EU to maintain support for a new agreement to avoid last December’s suspension of its Moroccan operations.
Canary Islands’ Minister of Fisheries and Water, Juan Ramon Hernández, explained to the European Parliament that “failure to renew the fishing agreement with Morocco for the islands means a loss of EUR 29.9 million (USD 39.3 million) gross revenue per year.” He echoed Cañete’s call for this level of EU compensation, of which EUR 11.23 million (USD 14.8 million) in costs are estimated to be borne by fleet vessel owners and EUR 18.72 million (USD 24.6 million) by production organizations and marketing agents.
“This involves the mooring of 26 vessels and the loss of 250 direct jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs,” added Hernández, urging Brussels “to resume negotiations for the establishment of a new fisheries agreement with the African country as quickly as possible.”
Hernández continued, “Analysis of Canarian vessels affected ranges from EUR 4,325 (USD 5,684) per month for smaller tonnage vessels and EUR 21,384 (USD 28,102) per month for the majority.”
In a 16 April statement, Spain’s Secretary General of Fisheries, Carlos Domínguez, allocated EUR 9.1 million (USD 12 million) to support crew and vessel owners involved in the disruption of the EU-Morocco agreement.
Spain represents 30 percent of EU seafood production and supports the EU’s objective of achieving maximum sustainable yield by 2015.
17 April, 2012