24 NGOs demand transparency in EU fish agreements

Evaluations of fisheries agreements are kept secret. 24 NGOs, including Western Sahara Resource Watch, request full disclosure of these documents.
Published: 21.06 - 2011 14:35Printer version    
Photo from El Aaiun harbour: Maria Fonfara

The European Union evaluates any potential fisheries agreement with a non-EU country before it’s concluded. Likewise, when an agreement has expired, past practice is assessed. But the European Commission refuses to disclose such evaluation reports for public scrutiny, stating that the documents are confidential so as to protect commercial interests and the international relations of the EU.

In March 2011, environmental organisations requested access to all the reports held by the European Commission which provide evaluations of the fisheries agreements with non-EU countries.

Following the Commission’s refusal thereof, 24 organisations, including Western Sahara Resource Watch, sent a letter to the Secretary General of the European Commission, Mrs Catherine Day, on 2 June. They request access to “all the reports held by the European Commission which provide ex-ante and ex-post evaluations of fisheries access agreements and fisheries partnership agreements”. Read a copy of the letter here.

Only recently, a confidential evaluation of the contentious EU-Moroccan Fisheries Partnership Agreement caused a stir in the European press. The report labels the agreement as the worst of all ongoing bilateral agreements in terms of cost-efficiency. Furthermore, the EU vessels contribute to damaging the region's fish stocks, already exploited and in part overexploited by local fishermen.

“These evaluation documents are essential in order to understand what the impact of these agreements has been,” said André Standing, who represents TransparentSea and initiated the letter.

“There is a concern that EU fisheries in African waters have caused depletion of fish stocks, so we want to know what these evaluations say about that. On the other hand, it is also possible that the documents show that the EU agreements have been responsible. Unless we see the documents, we don’t know,” André Standing said. “It’s also important to find out how the millions of Euros provided to third countries over the last few decades have been used by their governments—citizens of those countries have a right to know.”

At the request of the European Commission, French consultancy firm Océanic Developpement delivered an evaluation of the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement in December 2010. The agreement is in violation of international law for including the waters of Western Sahara, largely occupied by Morocco since 1975, without as much as consulting the Saharawi people.

The evaluation highlighted that stocks in both Moroccan and Saharawi waters are either fully or over-exploited. The Morocco FPA is the least cost-effective of all the EU's existing fishing deals with third countries.

Nevertheless, and in spite of ongoing UN-hosted peace-talks between Morocco and the Frente Polisario, which also include talks over the management of the resources of the territory, the European Commission now seeks to renew the fish pact.




Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
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