A Critical Review of the European Union-West African Fisheries Agreements

Regard critique sur les accords de pêche Union européenne-Afrique de l'Ouest
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Article Index
EU-AFRICA FISHERIES PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENTS
Practices in Competition with Local Artisanal…
European Fishing in Africa
IMPACTS ARE CASH POSITIVE BUT NEGATIVE FOR LOCAL…
43

Fisheries agreements made between the European Union (EU) and non-EU countries have often proven controversial. This essay will review the genesis and significance of the major agreements for all contracting parties. Since their revision in 2004, such agreements have failed to meet their stated aim, improved management of fish stocks - indeed, they have contributed to fisheries' degradation. We will survey the agreements' effects in contracting countries, and show the gulf between stated intentions and actual results.

The EU's Fisheries Partnership Agreements (FPA) owe their official origins to a November 1976 European Council resolution, one that created a 200-mile fishing zone along the Northern Atlantic and North Sea coastlines for the European Economic Community (EEC). The agreements assumed two forms: one granted reciprocal access rights to shared or adjoining fisheries and fish stocks, and the other defined conditions for non EEC-member countries to purchase access rights. The FPAs replaced bilateral agreements negotiated between EEC member-states and non-member states; the number of agreements increases each time a new country joins the EEC

This chapter presents some of the results of studies on fishing agreements and commerce from the "Responsible Fishery" research programme, financed by the UK Department for International Development (DIFID). To examine certain elements in more detail, the authors also received financial support from the European International Cooperation Research programme ECOST, i.e. Ecosystems, Societies, Consilience, Precautionary Principle programme to develop assessments of social costs in best fishing practices and public policies. see www. ecostproject.org. The chapter does not reflect DFID's nor the European Commission's views or future fisheries policy.

(Fig. 1).

The EU's budget for fisheries agreements increased from the equivalent of €5 million in 1981 to €163 million in 1990, reaching €300 million in 1997 before decreasing to approximately €200 million in 2009. Shipowners' fishing-license fees average 20% of receipts generated by the agreements for non-member countries, a percentage that should increase in the future. Approximately 700 EU ships have temporary or permanent licenses for the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of signator partner countries. Another 1,700 vessels operate through reciprocal "Northern" agreements for the North Sea and Northern Atlantic, out of 80,000 total EU ships (EU 2008). EU tuna boats boast annual captures of approximately 400,000 tonnes, nearly 80% (320,000 tonnes) of which is caught in waters adjoining partner-countries' EEZs. Schools of tuna migrate great distances, crossing several national EEZs; the eleven tuna agreements currently in force allow EU vessels to cross borders in pursuit of stocks moving through the Indian and Pacific Oceans (Fig. 1). The "mixed agreements" do the opposite: they seek to base EU trawlers - a large segment of its long-distance fleet - along the continental shelf inside partner countries' EEZs, providing access to a wide range of fish stocks.

Fisheries Partnership Agreements with African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries

The Fisheries Partnership Agreement protocols originally covered short two- to three-year terms, and are now negotiated for four or five years. The renewal process runs more or less smoothly, depending on the type of agreement. Africa-EU tuna negotiations generally conclude quickly, since all tuna (and most other highly marketable species) go into export markets or are captured by foreign fleets. Mixed-species agreements provoke the stormiest discussions, since the technologically advanced EU vessels compete with partner-country fleets, particularly small-scale artisanal fishing boats (Fig. 2) for increasingly scarce fish stocks. For example, in West Africa, scarcity has led to lower captures of the main fish species, and shellfish and cephalopods catches fell 25% to 40% between 1997 and 2006 (Fig. 3)

The increased scarcity of desirable fish has two major consequences for the African market: their price rises steeply, beyond the average person's means, while variety and choice decline, increasing peoples' vulnerability to any factor that lessens captures (see e.g. ECOST 2010). All African fish stocks show full exploitation or chronic over-fishing, a measure of competition in West African waters. The European ships' technological advantages over African national ships only aggravate the problem.

The New Agreements: Too Little Reform

The first Fisheries Partnership Agreements had ambiguous objectives, as do the newest ones. They aim to promote sustainable fishing in contracting countries, and must be implemented on a long-term and exclusive basis. They attempt to link negotiations to coastal states' fisheries resource management, and to monitoring and control of all ship activity in national EEZs. Two important characteristics of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) emerge from this approach: the illusion of a rational management of marine resources-, and the illusion of the effectiveness of state control. The successive fisheries closings in the North Sea show the weakness of the model, and CFP's failures are also evident in overfishing data: 88% of stocks in EU waters are fished beyond their capacity to reproduce, and many fisheries rest on young fish caught before they reach sexual maturity (European Commission 2010).

Other problems affect the agreements. The EU Directorate-General for Marine Affairs serves as an adviser to partner-countries - a conflict of interest, since he appears as both judge and plaintiff in disputed cases. European advisers write fishing policies and national management plans but also negotiate Fisheries Partnership Agreements, another potential conflict of interest. In cases that call for reduced fishing intensity, the uniform application of rules makes no distinction between flag states; the partner-country must reduce catches just as much as the EU states. The surplus issue disappears, despite its intended centrality in states' decision-making. Furthermore, the new partnership agreements make it possible to circumvent UNCLOS rules (see e.g. Article 62.2, UNCLOS 1982).

The new fisheries agreements also allow countries to evade World Trade Organization (WTO) subsidies guidelines. Subsidies carry a "red" classification if they contribute to an increase in overfishing, or "green" if they help restructure the European fishing industry. However, once ships arrive in a partner-country's or sub-region's waters, they increase fishing intensity and participate de facto in overfishing. Thus Fisheries Partnership Agreements prove to be green subsidies from the European point of view, but remain red ones for the ship's host country. Nonetheless, the APC group of countries (Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific) opposed including fisheries agreements in the list of WTO subsidies. The financial compensation gained from fisheries represents a large stake for these countries, a critical source of revenue for some governments. Resource conservation is not yet integrated in policy-makers' financial decisions, whether in the West African sub-region or in Europe (Fig. 4).

Toward Coherent Public Policies

The EU fisheries agreement negotiations perfectly illustrate a short-term view of the situation: financial contributions from fisheries licenses and sales contribute greatly to public revenue in partner-countries, even as they harm national fleets and marine ecosystems. In addition, EU agreements with the APC countries have certainly improved trade from West Africa to Europe, but do nothing to generate national added value or sustainable profits. Furthermore, ten-year studies by the European Development Fund show that fisheries investments chiefly concentrate on improving debarkation and fish-storage facilities, along with the technical and sanitary aspects of fish packaging, with little to nothing invested in on-site fish processing. Such short-term thinking prolongs and aggravates long-term problems of sustainable economic and environmental development in Europe's partner-countries.

EU-AFRICA FISHERIES PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENTS

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Practices in Competition with Local Artisanal Fishing

Source: Failler and Gascuel (2008)
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European Fishing in Africa

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IMPACTS ARE CASH POSITIVE BUT NEGATIVE FOR LOCAL FISH STOCKS

Source: Failler (2010)
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