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Transforming EU Fisheries Agreements: From Exploitation to Sustainability

The Evolution of EU Fisheries Agreements: From Exploitation to Partnership

The Shift in Approach

Just a few decades ago, the EU faced heavy criticism for its “pay, fish and go” approach to negotiating fisheries access agreements with third countries. This approach, which involved over-fishing and competition with local fishermen, contributed to food insecurity and a sense of injustice and exploitation in many communities, particularly in Africa.

Over the years, however, the EU has gradually transformed these agreements into partnership agreements with around 15 countries in the global south. The aim of these agreements is to strengthen the countries’ own fisheries management capacities while providing payment for access to a surplus of fish that cannot be fished domestically.

A Name Change and Reform

As part of this process, the agreements underwent a name change and reform. They were first known as Fisheries Partnership Agreements (FPAs) and later became Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements (SFPAs) during the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in 2013.

The evaluation of these agreements, which was recently published, shows that the changes made have indeed made a difference. The SFPAs now provide a solid framework for cooperation with coastal states, moving away from the exploitative approach of the past.

Positive Changes

The evaluation highlights several positive changes resulting from the reform of the agreements. There is now better coherence and synergy with EU development cooperation strategies, as well as a decoupling of sectoral support from access fees. This has led to support that is more tailored to the real needs of partner countries and increased transparency in the flow of funds.

The stakeholder consultation process has also become more inclusive, with the involvement of women’s organizations. Additionally, the EU has adopted a more regional approach, improving cooperation on the management and research of shared fish stocks between neighboring countries. The requirement for scientific proof of a surplus of fish available for others to fish has also had a significant impact.

A Serious Challenge

However, the evaluation also points to a serious challenge that is prevalent in many policy areas. This challenge is competition from other foreign actors who are less concerned with sustainability and more interested in paying, fishing, and leaving.

Dashed Hopes

In 2013, there were hopes for a “race to the top” to occur, with the EU setting a transparent and responsible example for SFPAs. This was expected to encourage coastal states to impose similar demands on other distant water fishing fleets. Unfortunately, this has not been as successful as anticipated.

The evaluation emphasizes the need for improved application of the “non-discrimination clause” and greater transparency from coastal states. It is crucial to ensure that the standards imposed on EU vessels through SFPAs are extended to other fishing fleets with access to the same waters. This is particularly important in joint ventures and chartering arrangements, where the true beneficial owner of a boat may be an EU national.

Transparency and Accountability

Full transparency regarding the terms and conditions of all foreign and domestic actors is essential for public scrutiny and political accountability. It is necessary to have transparency on the impact of EU sectoral support as well.

Furthermore, taxpayers should not be responsible for funding private fishing fleets operating in third countries. The EU external fleets should be able to cover the fishing access costs themselves, although not necessarily the full amount. Instead, taxpayers should contribute to ensuring that fish entering the EU market adheres to rules of sustainability and transparency.

A Global Responsibility

Given the current climate crisis, the EU has a significant responsibility to show leadership and reduce its global ecological footprint. The CFP includes provisions for giving fishing access to those who fish in the most responsible way, emitting less CO2, and collecting data. This instrument should be used to create a race to the top rather than a race to the bottom.

In addition to promoting sustainability and transparency, the EU must also provide support for capacity building in partner countries. This support should include areas such as monitoring and control, science, vocational training, and infrastructure.

By evolving from an exploitative approach to a partnership approach, the EU is making progress in ensuring sustainable and responsible fisheries agreements with the global south. However, challenges remain in terms of competition from other actors and the need for increased transparency and accountability. Moving forward, it is crucial for the EU to continue demonstrating leadership and prioritizing sustainability in its fisheries agreements.

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Sallie Anderson
Sallie Anderson
Sallie works as the Writer at World Weekly News. She likes to write about the latest trends going on in our world and share it with our readers.

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