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EU round-up--Morocco, Mauritania, quota timetable.

EUROPEAN Union (EU) ministers and the European Parliament have approved a new fishing agreement with Morocco, despite controversy over its covering waters off the disputed territory of the Western Sahara. The Polisario Liberation Front has since 1975 been fighting Morocco for self-determination over the largely desert territory. Offshore, however, its Atlantic Ocean waters are teeming with life. The fishing deal will run until 2010 and involve 119 annual fishing licences, including 100 for Spain,

14 for Portugal, 4 for France and 1 for Italy, and 60,000 tonnes of pelagic fishing quotas shared between boats from Britain, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Ireland, Spain, France and Portugal. The EU will pay Morocco Euro 147.4 in compensation and European vessel fees will total Euro 13.6 million. Following concerns voiced by MEPs over the Western Sahara, the parliament voted that should Polisario secure independence, "the Commission shall take immediate steps to suspend the agreement." In theory, the Commission can ignore this instruction although it would probably renegotiate a deal if Polisario achieved its aims through a planned referendum.

Meanwhile, the EU Council of Ministers also approved a temporary deal, just covering this year, allowing European fishing boats to fish off Mauritania, Morocco's southern neighbour. Under the deal, new fishing rights for pole-and-line tuna vessels and surface longliners are shared among France (nine vessels), Spain (23) and Portugal (three).

Other recent decisions by the council include its authorising the European Commission to negotiate amendments to the rules governing the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission. Meanwhile, the council has also accepted reforms to the rules of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has been formally proposing spending under the recently agreed 2007-13 medium-term European Union budget. As regards fishing, it has suggested that the European Fisheries Fund commands Euro 4.3 billion; spending on the Common Fisheries Policy and the (UN) Law of the Sea Euro 2.4 billion; and that Euro 2.4 billion is allocated to fund reforms to the EU's common market of fisheries products.

This comes as the European Commission has proposed reforms to the ways that annual EU fishing quotas are set, preventing the annual rush where all decisions are crammed into December. Instead, Brussels has formally suggested that it should table proposals for total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas for those stocks for which scientific advice is available by September. Also, the Commission will present a policy statement in April outlining the main principles it intends to apply to all quotas later that year. In this way, TAC and quota decisions can be taken earlier and with more consideration. "Together, these changes will create the basis for a more comprehensive dialogue between the Commission and its partners," said a Brussels note. Looking ahead, the EU's Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) is to open its meetings to observers from the industry, starting with the June meeting that will review data and prepare for any future review of the EU's cod recovery plan. Also, EU ministers and MEPs are considering changes to the statistical returns on fish catches. Reforms suggested by the European Parliament include that fresh fish used as bait (for instance to catch tuna) and damaged fish discarded before landings, be recorded.

These rules do not of course apply to the Faroe Islands, not part of the EU. But their prime minister Joannes Eidesgaard has said that the Danish autonomous territory would join the EU, if Norway and Iceland, now part of the European Free Trade Area, became EU member states. He said the Faroes would suffer if their closest fishing competitors were both in the EU.
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Author:Nuthall, Keith
Publication:International News
Date:May 1, 2006
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