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Affect of EU/ Morroccan Deal on Spanish Fishermen?

Speaking about the withdrawal of the EU fishing fleet from Moroccan waters, Javier Garat, secretary general of the Spanish Fisheries Confederation (Cepesca) describes the situation as a terrible crisis, reports Charlotte Johnston, TheFishSite editor.

Despite less than one per cent of the Spanish fleet fishing in Moroccan waters, Mr Garat said that this situation should not be overlooked. 64 Spanish vessels operated in the waters prior to December 2011, employing over 500 people.

Now these vessels and their crews are sat, inactive, in the harbour.

Back in December 2011 the EU parliament rejected an extension proposal for the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement, meaning that all EU vessels had to leave Moroccan waters immediately.

Mr Garat said that since then these vessel and their crews have been sat in harbour, with no alternative fishing opportunities available. However, he warned, that the situation spreads further than this.

"Not only have these vessels been affected, but the rest of the supply chain is at a loss as well including traders, auctions, ice producers etc."

Whilst some of the 64 vessels can fish in Southern Spanish waters, there are negative effects to this, he said.

"Overexploitation of species can occur, and we must consider how the profitability of other fishermen will be affected," Mr Garat said.

Earlier this week EU Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki met with the Spanish Minister of Fisheries, Arias Canete to discuss opportunities for a new fisheries agreement with Morocco.

Ms Canete has said that an agreement needs to be reached as soon as possible.

Another concern is that these stationary fishermen have received no compensation at all. Cepesca is asking the government for temporary compensation through the European Fisheries Fund (EFF).

Ms Canete raised this issue with Ms Damanaki at the meeting earlier in the week. "We want the Commission to enable mechanisms to provide financial compensation to the owners and fishermen who have seen their business interrupted by a decision of Parliament."

Mr Garat hopes that the EU and Morocco are currently working to negotiate a new agreement, however negotiations could last three to four months. This must then be presented to the European Parliament, so realistically it will be six months before anything is in firmly in place.

Cepesca ran a petition in December to extend the existing agreement, and is now actively working to ensure that fishermen and other sectors of the industry are fully compensated for the losses incurred, as well as providing recommendations to the government for a new EU/ Morocco agreement.

Fishing in Moroccan waters mostly consists of small pelagics such as anchovies and sardines. However tuna, mackerel and hake are also fished.

Charlotte Johnson

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