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Countdown to the lock of the Moroccan fishing ground due to a court ruling and the Sahara

Date: June 25, 2024 Time: 15:53:33

In little more than two weeks the European fleet, mainly made up of Spanish vessels, will have to leave Moroccan waters, including those of Western Sahara. The date is next July 17. The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, who held a meeting this Saturday with his Moroccan counterpart Mohamed Sadiki in Rome, considered consummated the suspension of the fishing agreement with this country. Specifically, Planas assured last Thursday that “there are few boats affected and that we are already working on the bases of aid for shipowners and fishermen”, which the Junta de Andalucía is willing to “complement”. There is only one circumstance that can change this script: a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which definitively clarifies the status of Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony, in the negotiations with Morocco. In this regard, the industry sources consulted by this means believe that the ruling will still take “weeks or months.”

This is a significant blow for part of the Galician trawling fleet (between 10 and 12 vessels, according to various sources) and, above all, for the Andalusian inshore fleet. The Junta de Andalucía estimates that 47 vessels (25 bottom longline and the rest purse seine) and some 500 crew members with catches that have exceeded 1,500 tons (sardine, sea bream, sea bass) will be affected in this autonomous community alone. oh, hake…). The majority based in the province of Cádiz. According to Cepesca sources, there are a total of 128 licenses to fish in Moroccan and Saharan waters, of which some 92 are in the hands of Spanish shipowners, although “now only an annual average of between 15 and 20 vessels use them,” he told The Information the general secretary of Cepesca and president of the European employers association Javier Garat.

“I am afraid that we must forget about the fishing agreement for a long time,” admits Javier Garat (Cepesca)

The zones? Garat attributes this to the “impossibility” to access Moroccan ports during the harshest moments of Covid and the escalation of small-scale diesel after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This fuel came to exceed 1.20 euros/liter in current prices without taxes in July 2022, according to the ‘Weekly Report on Agricultural and Fishing Diesel Prices’ of the Ministry of Agriculture. A historical fact, since this fuel is subsidized and, currently, stands at an average of 0.698 euros/litre.

‘Fear’ of the saturation of the Gulf of Cádiz

In any case, in the fishing sector there is fear that the closure of the Moroccan fishing ground in a few days could lead to the ‘saturation’ of the waters of the Gulf of Cádiz. As Javier Garat (Cepesca) recalls, fishing in Morocco “relieves these waters” where, he adds, there are significant limitations for fishing species such as sardines and anchovies. In addition, the also president of the European employers’ association Europêche points out, the Andalusian fleet that works in Moroccan waters is more of an artisanal nature compared to the Galician trawler, which has greater autonomy and has other alternatives such as Mauritania. “I am afraid that we must forget about the fishing agreement for a long time,” admits Garat, who regrets that this is happening when the Mediterranean fisheries are improving, as the latest study by the European Commission points out.

Tomás Pacheco, the president of the Barbateña Association of Fishing Entrepreneurs (ABEMPE) and owner of the “Playa Yerbabuena”, pronounces himself in a similar line, who comments to La Información that “the little autonomy of their boats” makes it impossible for them to travel to more distant fishing grounds . “We are dedicated to fishing small pelagics and in Morocco the fish is more diversified, since it can be for fresh and frozen, in Cádiz only for frying and this, in the market, has an impact,” he explains. The representative of the Barbate fishing businessmen adds that, in the waters of Cádiz, for several years “since there is an abundance of catches, prices have fallen to the ground and as a primary sector we are modifying it.”

“The licenses were around between 4,000 and 6,000 euros per quarter,” says Tomás Pacheco, president of the Barbate (Cádiz) shipowners.

Asked about the economic effort and the conditions that Spanish vessels have had to meet to fish in Moroccan waters, Pacheco explains that “the license was paid quarterly except for the month of January, which is a single payment for one month, then February and March as a technical stop for European ships (Moroccans do not have any type of ban)”. And he adds that “they were around between 4,000 and 6,000 euros a quarter.” In any case, he stresses that “the relationship with the Moroccan fishing sector has been great: there were no confrontations” and highlights the continuous dialogue through travantes of the crew of this nationality who have been working side by side with the Spanish.

“I think the fishing ground will be closed and we don’t know how long. There is speculation for a few months, but I think the agreement will not be renewed, unless the European Union has to make some kind of compensation to Morocco,” concludes Pacheco.

Waiting for the European courts

The Andalusian and Galician fleets will be the last? collateral victims of the prolonged conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front for the future of the former Spanish colony. This last organization scored its greatest victory before the European Justice, regarding the fishing agreement and another pact on agricultural tariffs between the EU and the North African country in 2019. Specifically, by ruling of the General Court of the European Union (TGUE) of the On September 19, 2021, this judicial instance considered that the point of view of the Saharawi people had not been taken into account in both pacts (especially the fishing one) and that, therefore, this questioned the decision to sign them with the Kingdom of Morocco. A decision of the European Commission endorsed by the national governments, questioned at the moment by the European Justice.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) must endorse or not the agreements with Morocco in 2019 and decide the role of Western Sahara in future negotiations

Although the court did not force the annulment of both to avoid damaging the community’s foreign policy, it does condition any future understanding as long as Morocco insists on including Western Sahara in the equation. The uncertainty continues because both the community executive and the European Council subsequently filed appeals before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). On them, the judges have not yet ruled.

* This website provides news content gathered from various internet sources. It is crucial to understand that we are not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information presented Read More

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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