Fishing problems: Unfair Fisheries Partnership Agreements | WWF

Fisheries Partnership Agreements between developed and developing countries have been accused of contributing to overfishing and helping the rich to steal from the poor.

For centuries, fishers have traveled to remote waters for keeping their livelihood. As early as 1575, vessels from Europe were fishing for cod in the waters of the New World, off Newfoundland in present-day Canada.

In the 1970s, many coastal countries established offshore 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) - in part to protect their fisheries. This meant that foreign vessels had to negotiate with the country concerned to obtain legal access to their waters.

Economically developed countries, or trading blocks like the European Union, still negotiate Fisheries Partnership Agreements with the countries where their fleets want to fish. Spain, for example, had such agreements with 18 countries in 2004, 16 of which were developing countries - as far apart as Cape Verde in the Atlantic Ocean and Kiribati in the Western Pacific Ocean.

Under these deals, the recipient government receives a lump sum to allow foreign boats in their waters. Fisheries Partnership Agreements with developing countries can, if properly designed, provide well-needed foreign exchange and contribute to sustainable development.

However, these deals have been widely criticized for contributing to overfishing, threatening the food security of developing countries, and preventing the development of local fishing industries. Developed countries have also been accused of paying minimum fees for rich fishing grounds and paying little attention to illegal fishing by their fleets in distant waters.

For us, [the fishing agreement between the European Union and Guinea Bissau] has no sense or benefit because the industrial fishing boats don't leave us any chance of survival. They fish right up to the coast without being stopped and the government doesn't have the means to control their activities. If the government would listen to us, we wouldn't sign an agreement with people who catch everything, even the small fish.

Mario Alberto Da Silva, an artisanal fisherman from Guinea Bissau © WWF
Mario Alberto Da Silva, artisanal fisherman, Guinea Bissau, 2003

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