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Conservationists slam EU fishing policy in Africa

SOUTH AFRICA: October 9, 2002

JOHANNESBURG - Conservation group WWF International slammed the European Union yesterday for buying fishing rights from poor African countries like Angola, saying it was depleting stocks vital to poor coastal communities.

"Angola is starving but the EU - while providing emergency food aid - has recently signed an agreement to take fish from Angolan waters to feed European markets," WWF said.
The southwest African nation is emerging from decades of ruinous civil war and millions of its people are in need of urgent food aid, despite the country's considerable oil and diamond wealth.
Fish populations thrive in its cold Atlantic waters, which are cooled by the nutrient-rich Benguela current.
WWF said the EU has fishing agreements with 14 other countries in Africa and the Indian Ocean and that a new study it conducted underlined the problems linked to these deals.
The European Commission defended its fishing deal with Angola, saying its intention was to help sustainable fishing in the region, and also other "targeted" development projects.
"We try to make agreements that ensure there is no competition between EU and local vessels," said Gregor Kreuzhuber, spokesman for EU Farm and Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler, speaking in Brussels.
As part of the Angolan deal, the EU had negotiated extra funding for local development projects such as the establishment of a satellite monitoring system, he added. EU vessels were forbidden to fish in a 12-mile zone off the Angolan coast.
WFF said similar deals struck with African nations entailed the depletion of fish stocks on which many coastal communities depend, weak enforcement of catch limits, and doubts about the fairness of the price the EU is paying for the fish it takes.
"Angola is a particularly serious case study," the WWF said. " is unknown whether Angolan waters can sustain the fishing agreement signed with the EU. If the people of Europe had a better understanding of the source of the fish they buy, they might be more selective when choosing their seafood."
WWF said that while the EU had earmarked 35 percent of the 15.5 million euros being paid to Angola for fishing rights for developing small-scale fisheries, it was not clear where the money would go.
The EU agreement with Angola also has no catch limits, except for shrimp, the WWF said.
Kreuzhuber said the state of Angolan fish stocks was well known to both Angolan and EU scientists and had been factored into the bilateral agreement.
"There was an assessment before striking the agreement with Angola, between Angolan and European scientists to assess the different species and the state of the stocks," he said.
"The only species in terms of the state of its stocks which could be described as slightly delicate is shrimp. And there is clear scientific advice on this," he said. "In Angola nobody was fishing for shrimp because they don't have the technical means."