A new agreement on the legal, environmental, economic and social governance of EU vessels’ fishing activities in Morocco and Western Sahara waters was approved on Tuesday.

The new Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement (SFPA) includes the waters of Western Sahara and aims to take into account the conclusions reached by the EU Court of Justice on this matter.

To this aim, the approved text:

stresses the results of the consultation process carried out by the European External Action Service and the Commission, in which most of those consulted were in favour of a new fisheries agreement, while it also points out that the Polisario Front did not wish to take part in the consultation, because they were against the agreement in principle;

includes an assessment that the agreement is beneficial to local people in this region, with 141 companies processing fisheries products that employ approximately 90 000 people directly or indirectly, and with an estimated turnover of approximately EUR 450 million (240 million are exported, of which 60% go to the EU);

does not prejudice the outcome of the political process on the final status of Western Sahara and fully supports UN efforts to find a political solution which allows the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

Sustainable fishing

The deal aims to promote sustainable fishing by allowing EU vessels to catch only the allowable catch surplus referred to in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Furthermore, the SFPA:

enables the EU and Morocco to work together more closely on promoting a sustainable fisheries policy;

supports Morocco’s efforts to develop the fisheries sector and a blue economy.

The total annual value of the fishing opportunities set in a protocol attached to the agreement is estimated at 153.6 million euros; 48.1 million for the first year, 50.4 for the second and 55.1 for the last two years.

A joint EU-Morocco committee will be set up to monitor the application of this agreement which may amend the protocol accordingly.

Before the approval, Plenary rejected a request to refer the agreement back to the EU Court of Justice for an opinion on its compatibility with EU Treaties by 189 votes in favour, 410against and 36 abstentions.

The last protocol with the Kingdom of Morocco expired on 14 July 2018. The new protocol gives EU vessels access to the waters covered by the agreement and the protocol in force, and to the adjacent waters of the non-autonomous territory of Western Sahara.

The SFPA is part of a broader relationship under the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishing an association between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco. It strengthens the bilateral relations and establishes a dialogue on fisheries governance.

The agreement was adopted with 415 votes in favour, 189 against and 49 abstention, according to the consent procedure, whereby Parliament can either approve or reject the whole text.

This agreement may be applied on a provisional basis from the date of signature authorised by the EU Council. While the agreement will remain in force for an indefinite period, the protocol, which sets the fishing opportunities, will be applied for four years.