Morocco's parliament unanimously ratified this week the fisheries agreement with the European Union which entitles 119 EU fishing vessels to operate in the North African country's waters.
The 210 million US dollars four year agreement sets an annual quota of 60.000 tons for industrial pelagic fishing off Western Sahara and excludes the Mediterranean coast and "imperiled" species such as cephalopods, shrimp and sword fish. It is expected to become effective next January first and is forecasted to benefit mostly Spanish and Portuguese fishing vessels. According to Morocco's Agriculture and Fisheries Secretary Mohamed Mohattane the new agreement signals a significant advance from the previous accord expired in 1999 and which involved 477 EU fishing vessels. The agreement also contemplates an additional 13 million Euros to help modernize Morocco's small scale fishing fleet, the contracting of 300 locals as crew members, part of the catches must be landed in Moroccan ports and on board Moroccan scientific observers will monitor catches. The latest EU/Morocco fisheries agreement was subscribed July 2005 ratified by the EU Parliament last May 2006 and finally signed into bill by EU Council of Ministers July 2006. Delays in its final approval and enforcement have been attributed to prolonged debates in the two houses of Moroccan Parliament.