Spain-Morocco fishing dispute drags on


Chris Dove, contributing editor, reporting from Malaga, Spain

Published on
November 1, 2012

Dragging on since last December, the dispute at the center of the Spain-Morocco stand-off is having a “very limited effect on short and medium term Spanish and European Union production,” according to Spanish fisheries minister, Miguel Arias Cañete.

A Protocol to the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) expired in February 2011, resulting in Morocco’s immediate expulsion of EU vessels from its waters.

The European Parliament is in favor of a new, four-year, more environmentally and economically beneficial FPA taking into account Western Sahara interests — a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1976. Morocco’s claims of sovereignty are not internationally recognized and it rejected the deal.

With Spain having the highest number of vessels authorized to fish in Moroccan territories, the cessation is enduring and costly.

Cañete had hope for a resolution this summer as EU aid and Spanish government grants continued subsidizing vessel owners and crew laid-off during the dispute. In April, EUR 9.1 million (USD 12 million) in support was allocated.

Acknowledging that the opening up of the Moroccan market represents an opportunity Cañete suggested that to limit the impact of the protocol, it’s necessary that established protection mechanisms are functioning properly, and insisted “the government will spare no efforts to do so.”

Spain, France and Italy are Morocco’s main export markets; the latter’s reported trade deficit in May and June 2012 were its worst in history.

In related news on a Mediterranean feasibility field visit to Málaga, the secretary general of fisheries, director generals of fisheries in Catalunya, Valencia, Murcia, Andalucía, the Balearic Islands and the Spanish Institute of Oceanography met to assess technical measures within European community legislation and set socially and environmentally sustainable goals for the regional fleet.

Major fishing grounds and the composition of the operational fleet were analyzed, aiming to improve existing fisheries, the adaptation of fishing capacity to existing stocks, the modification of technical measures, management plans, the application of closed seasons and the revision of national legislation currently in force.

Fisheries’ compliance with measures regarding net and cord thickness were reviewed ahead of an early November inspection by the commission.

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