The European Union and Guinea-Bissau have already started the formal meetings for the renewal of the fisheries agreement. Since Tuesday representatives from the EU and the African country have been in Brussels negotiating the terms of a new protocol on which 80 per cent of the current catches by the Marín cephalopod fleet are maintained throughout the year, in addition to those by other Spanish vessels. Up to 12 vessels are now fishing in waters of Guinea-Bissau, whose agreement with the EU ends on November 23. “It is the first round of contacts and for us it is very important because of the dependence we have on this agreement,” explains Juan Martin Fragueiro, manager of the National Association of Cephalopod Sector (ANACEF).
While the new agreement with Mauritania does not enter into force (they were expelled in 2012 but last November they reached an agreement) and due to the biological stoppage of April and May in Moroccan waters, the Guinea-Bissau fishing ground converts these months in key to the Marin fleet. There they perform the “typical mixed fishing activity” of Africa, in which mixed vessels catch species such as hake, saber, horse mackerel … “There are 12 boats there and one will be added soon,” says Fragueiro.
It is for this reason that the negotiation of the new protocol this week focuses the attention of the association on the fact that the only requirement to the EU is that a maintenance of the current conditions that govern the agreement is required. Signed between the parties in February 2012, it was suspended by the Council following the military coup that took place in the country on April 12 of that same year. Following the restoration of constitutional order on October 16 2014, the Council adopted the decision on the signature and provisional implementation of the protocol.
With a provision of EUR 9.2 million per year, shipowners are forced to pay a fee that varies according to the fleet segment. In the case of the cephalopod sector, it is based on the gross registered tons (GRT) of the vessel, which starts from EUR 256. “It’s more or less a million euros a year. It’s an important amount, but we’re trying to avoid its increase,” says the manager of ANACEF, who remembers that, apart from them, only “some tuna fishermen and shellfish catchers operate in the area.
The association’s hope is that the agreement can be settled before the summer so that there is enough time to proceed all the necessary processing before November arrives. The next negotiation will take place in the African country, for which ANACEF will be in direct contact to follow the details, which will have its most difficult part when deciding the economic contribution.