The European audit of Moroccan fisheries has concluded that the mutual agreement had worked well and that about three fourths of its socio-economic impacts had contributed to the development of Moroccan southern regions. The EU Commission thus recommended prolonging the Morocco-EU fisheries accord, which is to expire in mid-2018. The instrument is an important element of the cooperation between both sides. The European Union appreciated the conclusions of the report, which stress the overall socio-economic benefits of the fisheries deal with Morocco.
The EU commented that in this “retrospective and prospective evaluation report of the protocol to the partnership agreement in the field of sustainable fisheries between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco”, which has just been handed in to the European Council and the European Parliament, the EU appreciates that the accord has proved “effective in achieving its sustainable exploitation objective”. The report was prepared by the maritime affairs and fisheries department of the European Commission and it says that the EU “welcomes the scientific cooperation between the two parties, reflected in the joint annual meetings, which allowed the exchange of available data and led to shared diagnoses”. The report concludes that the fisheries accord has also achieved its objective of supporting the industry’s sustainable development.
This objective has been achieved thanks to the contribution of sectoral support to Morocco’s strategy of boarding 200 of its sailors aboard European vessels. The report also highlights that the implementation of the sectoral support to the fisheries accord is moving steadily at a very satisfactory pace, recalling that the Saharan regions of Dakhla-Oued Eddahab and Laayoune-Boujdour-Sakia Hamra account for the most of the total amount of almost €37 million designated for sectoral support.
The first estimates of the impact of this support already point out to the creation of 180 direct jobs and the improvement of the working conditions of about 59,000 people employed in the industry and its related activities. When it comes to the benefits derived by the EU, its investments generate a good return as every Euro invested generates 2.78 euros of total value added – directly and indirectly. Only 7 years ago, the return was 0.65 euro in total value added.
The assessment report also notes that the Morocco-EU fisheries accord is key to EU needs since it complements a number of agreements covering the range of small pelagic species in Western Africa and the existing tuna-related agreements. At the same time, the agreement is meeting the fishing needs of the operators.
The EU’s involvement in the region is a contentious point due to the international status of Western Sahara. The Commission is, however, convinced that that inclusion of the waters off the coast of Western Sahara into the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement is in line with relevant provisions of international law. As Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, points out, “the Protocol contains provisions ensuring that it fully complies with international law and serves the interests of all the populations concerned. In particular, Morocco should regularly report on the economic and social impact of the sectoral support provided for by the Protocol, including its geographical distribution.”
In a written reply to an MEP’s question, Mr. Vella further explains that “with a view to foster activities in the sector, the Protocol provides for compulsory landing in Moroccan ports of part of the catches made by EU vessels. In the light of the difficulties faced by the ship owners in respecting this obligation, an increase in both the incentives and the penalties in case of non-compliance has been decided during the 2016 Joint Committee. These amendments are fully consistent with relevant provisions of international law.”
The first fisheries agreement concluded between both sides in 1995 was hailed as by far the most important deal between the EU and a third country. However, as the parties did not manage to reach an agreement to renew the protocol in 1999, there was no agreement in place until the current Fisheries Partnership Agreement came into force in February 2007 for a period of four years. Having been tacitly renewed twice, the first Protocol to current Fisheries Partnership Agreement that was in place until February 2011 provided for a financial contribution of 36.1 million euros out of which 13.5 million euros was dedicated to the support of the fisheries policy of Morocco. Vessels from 11 EU Member States could obtain fishing authorizations from Morocco under the Agreement and this Protocol.
A second Protocol, extending its predecessor by one year under essentially the same terms, was negotiated in February 2011 and provisionally applied until December 2011, when the European Parliament decided not to consent to its conclusion. The current Protocol to this Agreement was signed in November 2013, endorsed by the Council and the European Parliament and it entered into force in July 2014 following the completion of the internal ratification procedures by Morocco.