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EU Underpays Madagascar for Access to Fish, say Researchers

04 July 2012, at 1:00am

GLOBAL - Unfair and exploitative political agreements allow Europeans to eat fish from the plates of developing countries, according to a study led by University of British Columbia researchers.

In the case of Madagascar, the European Union pays less than it did two decades ago while catching more fish. Since 1986, the EUs quotas for catching fish in Madagascars waters have increased by 30 per cent while its access fees have decreased by 20 per cent. As a result, the total annual income for Madagascar decreased by almost 90 per cent between 1986 and 2010.

An international team of researchers from Madagascar, the EU, Canada and the World Bank offers suggestions for fixing the problem in a new paper published online this week in the journal Marine Policy.

Access fees should be based on the market value of what they fish, not on a fixed rate, says Frdric Le Manach, the studys lead author from the Sea Around Us Project at UBCs Fisheries Centre.

Currently, EU countries pay fees equivalent to less than three per cent of the landed value of the catch to access Madagascars resources with highly subsidized fishing fleets, creating high profit margins for privately held companies, despite the EUs previous commitment to channel such profits back to developing countries.

The EU is unfairly profiting from the resources of one of the worlds poorest countries, says co-author Rashid Sumaila, a fisheries economist and director of the UBC Fisheries Centre. And they are breaking their own laws to do it.

Based on a previous study, which suggested that an access fee at 50 per cent of the gross revenue would be implementable, the authors estimated that Madagascar could get 8.7 million Euro per year for access to its fish stocks more than five times the amount the country currently receives.

These findings raise profound ethical questions that the EU must address, says marine ecologist and study co-author Alasdair Harris from conservation NGO Blue Ventures. The EU must take steps to ensure that all EU vessels, wherever they operate in the world, fish sustainably and in line with the its own commitments to protecting the interests of developing countries.

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