Caution of fishermen and enthusiasm of farmers for the nullity of the agreement with Morocco
Caution and resignation. This is the feeling shared by the fishermen of the Bay of Cadiz holding a license to fish in Moroccan waters after hearing the resolution of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) which cancels the trade agreement and between the EU and the Alawite Kingdom and that, if confirmed, this would prevent them from fishing in the neighboring country’s fishing grounds and complement the catches they already make on the coast of Cadiz. Farmers in Almeria, also affected by the trade deal with Rabat, share the same caution, but with a trace of enthusiasm, as they have complained for years that it is impossible for them to compete with the prices of the products. leaving Morocco. .
A total of 93 Spanish fishing vessels are authorized to fish in Moroccan and Western Sahara waters (out of a total of 128 European vessels authorized to fish in this area). The Andalusian fleet, with 47 ships anchored in Barbate, Conil, Algeciras and Tarifa, is the largest, followed by the Canary Islands, with 38, and Galicia, with seven. moment when we came out of the shutdown due to the crisis due to [la acogida en España del líder del Frente Polisario, Brahim] Gali, it happens. It was a setback, ”explains Tomás Pacheco, president of the Barbate shipowners, from which some twenty purse seiners leave who have access to Moroccan fishing grounds and which support some 300 families.
This setback that Pacheco comments on refers to the fear that, according to him, many colleagues experienced during the migration crisis in Ceuta, caused by Morocco to protest against hospitalization in Logroño de Gali, to seek treatment for the coronavirus. “Many have given up going to the Moroccan fishing zone for fear of the decisions and reprisals that Morocco could adopt to be in its waters at that time,” he explains. The purse seiners sail to the Larache area to fish, when they do not in the waters of the Bay of Cadiz. Pacheco cannot quantify the loss in economic terms that would result from the absence of fishing in Moroccan waters.
For artisanal bottom longline fishermen, the agreement with Morocco offers legal certainty – as a guarantee if they are found fishing in the waters of their territory – rather than an economic float, as the species that ‘they are allowed to fish – voracious, sable, sparse, bottom horse mackerel cod – have disappeared from these fishing grounds. In the case of Barbate, for example, of the 26 licenses granted by the agreement, only 14 are active.
For them, the conviction confirms the abandonment of their sector. “Europe is very far from the strait; Madrid does not need Andalusia to advance its budgets; The Council only cares about algae and this is due to a problem that the UN should have solved years ago, ”laments, sarcastically, Nicolás Fernández, Secretary General of the Federation of Fishing Guilds of Cadiz (Fecopesca) .
Of the eight Conil boats authorized to fish in Moroccan waters, only one is currently venturing there. The others haven’t worked there for a long time. “It is very difficult to find the species that we are fishing, perhaps displaced by bluefin tuna, for which we do not have quotas to fish,” explains Fernández. The same goes for the twenty longliners in the rest of the Bay of Cadiz. “Only a quarter can be active,” he says. However, the capture of sable and voracious fish is economically important. Last year, 1.3 million euros were billed. This has been reduced to a third due to his disappearance, Fernández says.
“The value of the agreement with Morocco for us at the moment is due more to the guarantee of legal certainty than to the economic impact”, emphasizes Fernández. Javier Garat, Secretary General of the Spanish Fisheries Confederation (Cepesca). It also recognizes that for the Spanish fleet, fishing in Morocco implies the possibility of having “a complementary fishing zone”, since most of the authorized vessels fish mainly in the bay of Cadiz, in the Andalusian case, or in Mauritanian waters. , in Galician. “The largest volume of catches on Moroccan territory comes from the Netherlands, Lithuania, Latvia and Germany,” Garat explains. “For Andalusian fishermen, it is a form of social and economic support, a complement to their activity when they are not fishing in the Gulf of Cadiz and freeing this area,” he adds.
The agreement between Brussels and Rabat authorizes a maximum of 90,000 tonnes of fishing, of which Spain, with around 600 tonnes, represents a very small part, agrees the manager of the Cepesca. Garat considers the phrase “bad news”, but also calls for caution and draws attention to the possibility that its execution will be delayed in time, while the appeal is resolved, if it is presented.
The anxiety with which the end result of the CJEU judgment is seen is not limited only to the fishing industry and the families that depend on it. The mayor of Algeciras, José Ignacio Landaluce, draws attention to the effects this may have on other bilateral agreements. “It complicates our lives at a time when we were trying to calm the situation with Morocco,” said the elected. Landaluce refers to the agreements on the transit of people and in particular to the Paso del Estrecho operation, which makes the port of Algeciras one of the nerve centers through which an average of 3.5 million travelers pass each year. “Much of the work in progress may be at risk,” he warns. This operation has been canceled in the past two years due to the pandemic.
While those who live from the sea accept the CJEU’s decision with disappointment, those who work from the land have greeted it with enthusiasm. “The current trade agreement is a disaster,” says Andrés Góngora, provincial secretary of the Coordinator of Farmers’ and Livestock Organizations (COAG) of Almería. Farmers in the province have always criticized successive agreements with Morocco for harming their production. “The period of their exports coincides with the period of greatest production of Spain and it is impossible to compete with them in terms of exports,” he said.
Góngora also does not give figures on the losses that this competition with Moroccan products implies for the sector. “It cannot be said because we have been with these agreements for a long time, the scenario would be completely different, but it cannot be calculated because there is nothing to compare,” he says. But he assures that farmers have stopped planting green beans in winter and that 6,000 hectares of tomatoes have been left fallow due to the inability to bid in Europe with the same vegetable grown across the strait. .
The COAG took advantage of the migration crisis in Ceuta to demand the suspension of trade agreements with Rabat. “Europe cannot be allowed to maintain preferential agreements with a dictatorship like the Moroccan woman when it uses unscrupulous migration for political ends,” Góngora said at the time. Agricultural associations question not only the cheapest labor on Moroccan soil or the absence of basic protocols for the control of environmental quality, product and safety for the consumer, but also the practice Spanish and French farmers with plantations in Morocco who send their products directly to the European market.
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