Issues of the new EU-Mauritania fishing agreement protocol: small pelagics, bycatch and sectoral support

On March 22d, the European Parliament Fisheries Committee discussed the new EU-Mauritania fishing agreement protocol. Most parliamentarians, like the rapporteur, Mr Mato, see positively the protocol proposed. However, the issue of the absence of a regional framework for the sustainable management of small pelagics was raised by Mrs Rodust, who insisted the EU should promote such regional management.

CFFA fully shares this point of view. With regard to access to small pelagic through the Mauritania – EU SFPA, our greatest concern in terms of sustainability remains the fact that access is allocated to foreign fleets, including those of the EU and Russia, in the absence of a necessary regional management framework for these species, shared between, mainly, Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal. How is it possible to determine a surplus in the absence of such regional management?

The SRFC Convention on the Minimum Access Conditions (CMA), ratified by SRFC Member States, including Mauritania, call for a concerted management of small pelagic species in the region, and this call has been also made by local fishing communities, given the strategic importance of these resources for the food security of the entire region. This is a matter of urgency, given the state of full exploitation, or even over-exploitation of the round sardinella.

We therefore request the EU to make all possible efforts to promote such regional management, including through its SFPA dialogue with the concerned countries: Mauritania, Morocco, Senegal.

CFFA has additional comments about the EU-Mauritania new proposed protocol, concerning :

-          Mauritania commitment to Transparency

The Article 1 of the new Protocol stipulates that Mauritania undertakes to make public any public or private agreement allowing access to its EEZ by foreign vessels. This is an important positive step, which is rightly reflected by the rapporteur, Mr Mato. We hope that Mauritania will soon publish all these agreements, as it is for us a fundamental part of the implementation of the agreement, which will be examined at the occasion the first SFPA Joint Committee meeting, which will meet probably in May 2016.

-          Access to resources: by-catches of octopus and small pelagics

The state of the octopus resources in Mauritania remains a concern. The 2015-2019 Mauritania fisheries sector development strategy document insists on the fact that 'despite a recovery observed recently, the state of octopus stock is still a concern with overexploitation levels estimated to be at 17%’. In this context, it is to be welcome that there is no direct access for European fleets to this overexploited resource, which is key for the local artisanal sector.

However, if there is no access to the octopus as a target species through the SFPA, octopus remains one of species caught as bycatch: European shrimp trawlers may retain on board 8% of catches of cephalopods, composed mainly of octopus.

The rapporteur also underlines that Mauritania had undertaken to consider, during the first Joint Committee meeting, the possible allocation of new fishing opportunities for demersal freezer trawlers, which would then also include by-catches of octopus.

We feel that the impact of octopus by catches combined volumes on the state of the stock must be taken into account, and no further access should be given that would have a detrimental impact on the state of non-targeted resources, particularly the over exploited octopus.

The problem of bycatch is also present in the small pelagic fishery. For pelagic super trawlers,  the joint Scientific Committee in 2013 made the hypothesis that there was possible under-reporting of by-catches, 'taking into account the practice of pelagic trawling which in general has a high bycatch rate with an important diversity of species caught as by-catch (over 100 species)'. The recent Maritime Atlas of vulnerable sea areas in Mauritania, published by the Mauritanian Institute of oceanographic research and fisheries (IMROP)  states that, for the small pelagic fishery, 'while catches of the target species are well-regulated, the bycatch is a major problem’.

Efforts of selectivity are therefore needed to reduce by-catch of pelagic super trawlers, including by introducing, through the implementation of the 2015-2019 SFPA, the use of selectivity devices.

-          Sectoral support

During the last protocols, the sectoral support substantially decreased, from 16 million euros per year (2008-2012) to 3 million per year (2012-2014). It will be 4 million euros per year in the new protocol 2015-2019.  So far, the use of sectoral support is very unsatisfactory for both parties: the funds were mainly used to cover running costs, rather than infrastructure, essential for the development of the sector. The question of transparency regarding the use of this sectoral support was also raised many times in the past.

To address these deficiencies, it is expected in the new protocol that sectoral support will be handled by an ‘execution cell’ that will coordinate the implementation with the beneficiaries of the selected projects. A report at the end of project will be published, which will consider the impact on resources, employment, investments. An annual workshop with beneficiaries will be held to present progress.

The rapid implementation of this transparent and participative approach should be encouraged, to improve the use of sectoral support funds to the benefits of Mauritanian sustainable fisheries development.


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