Certain countries overexploit the fish resources of others through trade agreements that ignore not only the protection of biodiversity, but also the most basic rights of the people who for centuries have developed a harmonious relationship with resources. These “agreements” are generally made between the governments of countries with large industrial fleets and the governments of poor countries, such as those in West Africa, whose territorial waters are rich in fish. Such practices are highly questionable in terms of and the food security of the world’s poorest countries.
They completely ignore the resolution adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council on March 27, 2008, on the right to food, which insists that every country “should make every effort to ensure that their international policies of a political and economic nature, including international trade agreements, do not have a negative impact on the right to food in other countries.”
Despite everything, these agreements have multiplied in many parts of the world from the 1990s on.
According to the Environmental Justice Foundation, the European Union currently has fishing agreements with 15 developing countries (Cape Verde, the Comoros, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kiribati, Madagascar, Mauritania, the Federated States of Micronesia, Morocco, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, Seychelles and the Solomon Islands) who sell off their “excess” marine resources in return for financial compensation ranging from €400,000 to €86,000,000 per year.
These agreements have come under much criticism, mainly because they are not transparent and there are no controls on their application. Enormous economic interests are in play, and corruption is often endemic.
We need to ask what benefits are going to the populations of countries whose precious fish stocks are being sold off in this way, stocks already seriously affected by overfishing.
A recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reveals that in Saharan African countries the agreements and international trade in fish have no impact on macro-economic indicators (GDP growth and poverty reduction) because there are no mechanisms for redistributing the earnings from fish exports to the poorest levels of society.
Find out more:
Environmental Justice Foundation
Massachusetts Institute of Technology International Review
Swedish Society for Nature Conservation