Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Mauritania-EU: plenty of fish bones

The 2013 agreement with the European Union guarantees the sustainability of fishery stocks, while protecting the interests of local fishermen. Its renegotiation has led to acrimonious discussions. “Prior to the agreement, it was easier to make money out of fishing, but there were real causes for concern about the sector’s future!” For Ahmed Yahya (Ahmed Ould Abderrahmane, before the civil status reform), aged 38 and the founder and manager of the Mauritanian Maritime Agency (A2M), shipowner and agent in Nouadhibou, the Fisheries Partnership Agreements (FPA), signed in 2006 between his country and the European Union (EU), were a milestone towards the sustainable management of the nation’s fisheries resources. After twenty years of reign of Maaouiya Ould Taya, the only agreements which existed were the traditional agreements, where the objective was to go and catch fish, pay for the fish caught and leave.

However, such agreements paid little heed to the consequences of overfishing.In view of the sector’s importance in the local economy, the authorities needed to redefine the rules of the game with the country’s partners, in particular the EU, Russia and China. “Up to 2006, there were no quota or zoning constraints, inspections at sea were almost non-existent, and foreign ships were able to fish without limits,” recalls Ahmed Yahya. “Gradually, measures have been put in place to regulate these practices. Deep-sea trawling has been limited and quotas have been introduced for certain species.” A welcome turning point was reached in October 2013 with the signature of the new FPA for the period 2012–2014 (applied on a provisional basis from August 2012). “It is the first truly fair agreement, whose provisions serve both to protect the interests of local fishermen and to ensure the sustainability of fishery resources”, in particular octopus, which has a high commercial value, and for which the area off the coasts of Senegal and Mauritania accounts for half of the world’s catches.