EU court ruling on Morocco fishing agreement expected in 2024, says Spanish official

EU court ruling on Morocco fishing agreement expected in 2024, says Spanish official

The future of the EU’s fishing agreements with Morocco and Mauritania will be decided at the earliest in 2024, announced the Spanish Acting General Secretary of Fisheries.

Secretary Isabel Artime made the announcement today during the inaugural session of the Executive Committee of the EU’s Long-Distance Fisheries Advisory Council (LDAC). 

Artime emphasized the significance of 2024 as a pivotal year due to the expiration and subsequent renewal of fishing protocols with several countries.

One of the key discussions during this meeting centered around the collaboration between the EU and Morocco. According to Alexandre Rodríguez, the Executive Secretary of LDAC, the partnership extends beyond the protocol.

Regarding the protocol with Morocco, which expired in July this year, Artime said that the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food is eagerly awaiting the judgment of the European Court of Justice. 

This ruling will determine whether negotiations to renew the agreement can proceed. The ruling relates to a 2021 decision by the EU’s General Court that annulled the fishing agreement due to its inclusion of the Western Sahara waters.

The EU’s Advocate General recently confirmed that her conclusions on the matter will not be available until March 2024. These conclusions serve as a preliminary step before the court’s final judgment, expected later that year. 

The session covered various aspects of the EU’s long distance fisheries, including measures against illegal driftnet fishing and compliance with labor standards set by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

During deliberations, Javier Garat, the Secretary-General of the Spanish Shipowners’ Association (Cepesca) and Europêche, raised concerns about challenges the fishing fleet face in hiring Moroccan seafarers due to certification issues. 

While there is a willingness on both sides to ease cooperation, such hurdles have resulted in frustration, particularly concerning the lack of language-specific courses for Moroccan seafarers.

In a similar vein, Raúl Rodríguez, the Head of Fisheries at the environmental organization WWF, supported Garat’s arguments regarding recruitment challenges, particularly in Andalusian ports. 

He advocated for institutional collaboration with the fishing sector to address these issues.

The fishing agreement with Morocco is of immense political importance for Spain, offering 138 licenses to EU vessels, of which 93 are allocated to Spanish fleets. However, in the previous year, only around 20 of these licenses were used.

Regarding the agreement with Mauritania, another crucial fishing pact for the EU, Artime said that a joint commission between both parties would convene in December as the agreement is set to expire in 2024, requiring discussions for its renewal.

The Mauritania agreement benefits 68 vessels from Andalusia, the Canary Islands, Galicia, and the Basque Country.

Artime also revealed that in 2024 negotiations will be required for the renewal of fishing agreements with Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, and São Tomé and Príncipe. 

Spain is keen on promoting new agreements between the EU and Angola and Guinea-Conakry, concluded the official.


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