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Wednesday, 06 September 2017

Fish-for-cash barter: EU- West Africa Fishing Partnership Agreement (FPA)

The flowery legalese of any Fishing Partnership Agreement always appears to secure the sustainability of the domestic fisheries involved but really this economic document is Brussels’ strategy for plundering the abundant undersea resources of Africa’s maritime states. From Sao Tomé to Sierra Leone, evidence abounds that the EU merely pays lip service to its pledges for global development. George Francis, 63, is a rugged fisherman and harbour master of Lumley Wharf in Freetown, the hilly capital of Sierra Leone. He’s been in the fishing business since the mid-60s shortly after his country gained independence from the United Kingdom. He has seen better days in the distant past. Nowadays, life is very hard and two of his daughters now live in Nigeria from where they send him money, regularly. He says his misery began some twenty years ago when big industrial trawlers started prowling the shores of his seaside community. Outgunned by bigger boats, George is unable to catch enough fish for himself. He generally goes for small fishes like herring, but on the day these reporters spoke to him, he had caught just three little ones. His fellow fishermen were not so lucky. Several admitted to catching one or even none!It was 10 past 6 in the evening. “These trawlers are supposed to fish about 200 miles away from the shore,” Francis laments. “But they come into the coast at night and the government is aware of these incursions.” Out of frustration, he once wrote to the Anti-Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone (ACC-SL) to report the illegal activities of the fishing vessels, but he was told that only the maritime authority could handle his case. “The maritime authority can’t do anything,” he adds regretfully, “because when they get hold of these trawlers they don’t bring them in. Only $5000 to $10,000 [in bribes] will solve the problem.” Sierra Leone is one of the countries in West Africa that hasn’t signed a Fishing Partnership Agreement (FPA) with the EU. But this may not be the case in the nearest future: Europe has its eyes on the rich fishing grounds of this tiny ECOWAS nation. A delegation was in Freetown in late April to explore this possibility. Other countries that have signed the FPA in the region include Senegal, Sao Tomé and Principe, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and Mauritania. “We’re in contact with coastal states possibly interested in setting up (or re-launching) an [agreement] with the EU, namely Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique,” says Aikaterini Apostola, press officer for health and food safety at the European Commission. “However most discussions are still at a very preliminary stage and it cannot be induced at present whether they would succeed or not.” An FPA (also sometimes referred to as SFPA or in full, Sustainable Fishing Partnership Agreement) is essentially a document that allows European vessels to operate in a partner country (usually in the developing world) in exchange for revenue. In short, a fish-for-cash barter. These deals, although beneficial in some instances, are not without their disadvantages given the imbalance of power between the parties involved.

Source: guardian.ng