More than 100 Spanish boats will no longer be able to fish in waters off Morocco after the European Parliament rejected the extension of a deal under which the EU paid Morocco €36 million for fishing licences every year.
MEPs yesterday (14 December) narrowly rejected a proposal by the European Commission for a one-year extension of the agreement. The agreement had expired in February but continued provisionally to apply.
MEPs rejected a recommendation by Parliament's fisheries committee to approve the extension with 326 votes against, 296 in favour and 58 abstentions. The vote terminates the provisional application of the proposed extension with immediate effect.
Carl Haglund, a Finnish Liberal MEP, found in his report on the extension that the existing agreement created disproportionate costs to the EU, led to excessive exploitation of fish stocks and failed to provide benefits to the population of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco, in whose waters most of the fishing takes place.
In rejecting the extension, MEPs called on Maria Damanaki, the European commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, to negotiate a new agreement with Morocco that is better for the environment, creates greater value for the EU and does not violate the rights of the population of Western Sahara.
The existing agreement with Morocco expired in February, and Damanaki sought a one-year extension to gain time to negotiate a new deal.
“The vote of the European Parliament sends a strong message to the Moroccan government that it would need to engage for a better agreement on all these issues,” Damanaki said.
Damanaki said today she would ask the EU's fisheries ministers to repeal the temporary agreement with Morocco tomorrow (15 December).
She said she did not know if a new fisheries agreement with Morocco was possible, adding: "We are going to explore all the possible ways forward." She said a new agreement with Morocco would have to address issues of environmental sustainability, economic profitability and international legality.
Raül Romeva i Rueda, a Spanish Green MEP who is his group's spokesman on fisheries, welcomed the vote. “Any future EU-Morocco fisheries agreement must exclude Western Saharan waters, over which the Moroccan government has no rights,” he said. “This agreement is a shameful stain on EU foreign policy and it is time it was consigned to the past.”
The EU considers to pay Morocco to fish in occupied Western Sahara. An EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement from 2013 would be both politically controversial and in violation of international law.
The international Fish Elsewhere! campaign demands the EU to avoid such unethical operations, and go fishing somewhere else. No fishing in Western Sahara should take place until the conflict is solved.