The European Union has put on hold negotiations with Guinea-Bissau (GB) following the proposal of "disproportionate economic and technical conditions" by the African country to fisheries partnership agreement (FPA) between the two parties. Representative of the two parties met for the fifth time in Brussels earlier this week to discuss the terms and conditions for a new protocol implementing the current sustainable fisheries partnership agreement (SFPA).
This new agreement would allow around 50 EU vessels to continue fishing important species such as tuna, cephalopods, horse mackerel or shrimps in GB's waters for the next years.
Guinea Bissau's representatives requested a sharp increase in the EU contribution and also in the European shipowners' fees to fish in the country, Undercurrent News has learnt.
"Due to disproportionate economic and technical conditions proposed by GB's authorities, the negotiations have been put on hold," said Europeche, the representative body for fishermen in the European Union representing around 45,000 vessels.
The fishing vessel owners represented by Europeche regret these developments and hope that negotiations can resume and lead to a realistic agreement beneficial for both parties in the near future, Europeche said.
The negotiations are expected to resume in July, Daniel Voces de Onaíndi, Europeche's acting managing director, told Undercurrent.
He added that European shipowners are willing to find an agreement to fish in Guinea Bissau but "not at any cost".
The current fisheries protocol signed between the EU and Guinea-Bissau is bound to expire on Nov. 23.
This agreement provides for a financial contribution of €9.2 million per year, including €3m per year to support the fisheries sector, as well as an increased contribution to be paid by fishing vessel owners.
The protocol is known as a multi-species agreement since it covers tuna, cephalopods, horse mackerel, shrimps as well as other species and forms part of the tuna network of fisheries agreements in West Africa.
Europeche said the agreement with Guinea Bissau benefits fisheries management in the area and contributes to raise the environmental and social standards to achieve sustainable fisheries. In addition, the protocol allows for the development of scientific research, surveillance, artisanal fisheries, training, know-how and higher quality products, it said.
Other fishing nations such as China are present in these waters, whose standards and levels transparency are significantly lower than the Europeans, Europeche also noted.
"Despite the European Commission efforts to reach a mutually-beneficial agreement, the conditions offered by GB’s authorities are far from being realistic, not based on facts and technically and economically unviable. Under these terms, the EU fishing sector would simply refuse to continue fishing in GB waters," Javier Garat, President of Europeche, said.
"Nevertheless, our operators trust that in the next round of negotiations the positions can converge in order to achieve a sustainable and good value for money agreement for both the EU and GB," Garat also said.
The European Union and Guinea Bissau had agreed to revive the ratification process for FPA in 2014. The parties had previously negotiated a three-year protocol in 2012, but it was never ratified due to political turmoil in Guinea Bissau.
The Atlantic ocean is home to approximately 350,000 metric tons of tuna catches, or a tenth of global catches.
But difficulties posed by private agreements and licenses mean FPAs remain the key means for European Union fleets to access fisheries in West Africa, according to the European commission.