Mauritania-China Fisheries Agreement: Civil Society Appeals to EU and Mauritanian Government

Paris, 17 April 2014 – The exploitation of fishing resources represents a strategic challenge for the Mauritanian economy. The fishing industry is largest foreign exchange earner after mining and accounts for 10% of the country’s GDP, between 35% and 50% of exports and nearly 36% of jobs[1].

 In order to protect the prosperity of the fishing industry, the Mauritanian government adopted a “Fisheries and Aquaculture Strategic Management Plan” between 2008 and 2012 that, “through sustainable management of fishing resources, was supposed to ensure the optimisation of the socio-economic benefits of the industry in terms of fiscal revenue, private operator income, employment, food security and poverty reduction[2].

 Worrying Fisheries Agreement Signed with a Chinese Company

 However, recent fisheries agreements concluded by the Mauritanian government depart significantly from this plan. The terms of the agreement between Mauritania and the Chinese company Poly-Hondone Pelagic FisherY Co, a subsidiary of the POLY TECHNOLOGIES Group, is particularly striking evidence of this.

 This agreement was signed on 7 June 2010 and stipulates that, in exchange for capital investment totalling 100 million USD in the construction and running of a fish processing plant in Nouadhibou, the Chinese company has the right to fish in Mauritanian waters under extremely advantageous fiscal and commercial conditions for a period of 25 years (Appendix 1).

 In view of the fact that Mauritanian fishing resources are endangered, Sherpa and Sea Shepherd[3] are surprised that no restrictions on fishing methods are set out in the agreement. Consequently, the Chinese company is plundering Mauritanian fishing resources, making the general context of illegal and undeclared catches worse.

The result of this overexploitation of fishing resources is irreversible damage to the environment and the ecosystemde facto a real “ecocatastrophe”.[4]

Port de L’Amitie, Mauritania – © dar-hydraulique.com

The agreement does not prescribe any socio-economic development obligations either, other than the creation of 2,463 jobs for qualified Mauritanians. This as yet unfulfilled commitment seems trivial in comparison to significant job losses in traditional fishing: to date, 13,000 jobs have already been affected.

Short-Changed Europe Maintains Financial Support

 The terms of the agreement with the Chinese company are particularly surprising because they differ considerably from those of the new Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) that was approved by the Council of the European Union on 15 November 2013 for a period of two years[5]. A simple comparison of the costs and durations of these agreements tells us that, while the Chinese company will invest 4 million USD a year (in its own plant) over a period of 25 years, the EU will invest 70 million euros a year through the FPA over a period of 2 years. Who benefits here from such a difference in treatment?

 Many parliamentarians and local civil organisations opposed ratification of the agreement with the Chinese company, in vain. Amid controversy, the Mauritanian government nevertheless eventually approved the agreement on 6 June 2011[6]. In consideration of the fact that no investment has yet been made by the Chinese company and that the obligation to create jobs has not yet been fulfilled, the agreement looks out of all proportion.

 Therefore, this disproportion makes the agreement illicit as well as denounceable since it has no purpose and violates public order in Mauritania. Thus, it is essential that Mauritania revokes and renegotiates the agreement in order to protect the interests of the Mauritanian population and to try to create a precedent for future agreements (Appendix 2).

 On 19 and 20 February 2013, at meetings where the FPA was discussed, the EU reiterated “the need to find out how the remainder of a 25 million euro financial contribution had been used before it would think about giving the go ahead to a new round of financial support[7]. However, the demand for trackability of EU financial assistance to Mauritania has not been followed up. On the contrary, under the terms of the new fisheries agreement, new financial aids have been unblocked[8].

 The EU promotes “measures designed to ensure the prosperity and sustainability of the fishing industry”; thus, it should have condemned the Mauritanian-authorized illegal exploitation of fishing resources by foreign companies[9], and, in accordance with its commitments, and particularly during the next round of funding[10], it should insist on greater transparency of its investments in order to protect the interests of the Mauritanian population.

 

Therefore, we call on the Mauritanian government to revoke the fisheries agreement with Poly-Hondone FisherY Co and ask the European Union to take the necessary steps to guarantee that EU public money is not being used for purposes contrary to the principles governing its activities sustaining developing countries.

 

Press Contacts:

William Bourdon, President of Sherpa, +33 (0) 142603260, w.bourdon@bvb-avocats.com

Lamya Essemlali, President of Sea Shepherd France, +33 (0) 76007544, lamya@seashepherd.fr

For more information, download the appendices.

This press release is available in PDF format.


[1] The establishing agreement signed on 7th June 2010 presents the Chinese company POLY-HONDONE PELAGIC FISHERY CO. LTD. as the “investor”. However, from the preamble onwards, the name of this company disappears and is replaced with that of POLY TECHNOLOGIES INC, the firm with which the Mauritanian government concluded an investment agreement on 14th March 2010 for the purpose of the signature of this agreement.

[2]  Source: INFORMATION ON FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT PLAN BETWEEN 2008 AND 2012, Appendix 1; Report of a diagnostic study of the social situation of work and jobs in the fishing industry in Mauritania (September 2008) –  http://www.ilo.org/public/spanish/region/eurpro/madrid/download/diagnosmaurit.pdf

[3] See Operation “SUNA GAAL” for more information: http://www.seashepherd.fr/news-and-media/news20140109-fr-01.html

[4] Sources : Report issued by PECHECOPS – http://www.cape-cffa.org/IMG/pdf/20110708_Analyse_Convention_Chine_Mauritanie.pdf; report issued by For-Mauritania –http://for-mauritania.org/files/contributionfm_versionfr_.pdf; article from Greenpeace Africa –http://www.greenpeace.org/africa/fr/Actualities/actualites/Mauritanie-Arretez-de-Porter-Atteinte-a-Notre-Droit-Inalienable/

[5] Source: Fisheries Partnership Protocol (FPA)

http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/international/agreements/mauritania/index_en.htm

[6] Source: Press – http://www.mauritania.mr/fr/index.php?service=5&id=4421http://adrar-info.net/?p=2615

[7] Source: Press – http://cridem.org/imprimable.php?article=640029

[8] Source: Association Sherpa –  https://www.asso-sherpa.org/archives/2698 (For example, financial contributions made by the EU go through a bank account at the Mauritanian Central Bank (MCB), often described as a “black hole”.)

[9] Source : European Commission: The Common Fisheries Policy (FCP) – http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/index_fr.htm

[10] The European Union confirmed 6.5 billion euros of new financial support for trade in West Africa on 17th March 2014 under the terms of the Economic Partnership Agreement Development Programme (PAPED)