Media advisory: EU moves against illegal fishing; EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement

Press release - November 25, 2013
Tuesday 26 November: releases first blacklisting of non-EU countries for failing to control illegal fishing Wednesday 27 November: European Parliament Fisheries Committee votes on EU-Morocco fisheries agreement


  1. European Commission releases first blacklisting of non-EU countries for failing to control illegal fishing (Brussels, Tuesday 26 November – European Commission press conference at 12.00 CET)
  2. European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee votes on EU-Morocco fisheries agreement – the EU’s biggest international fisheries deal – relating to fishing rights off the coast of Morocco and the disputed territory of Western Sahara (Brussels, Wednesday 27 November)

1.       First EU blacklisting of countries for failing to control illegal fishing

The European Commission is expected for the first time to blacklist three non-EU countries for failing to cooperate in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. EU ministers are expected to confirm the listing, which will mean that all three countries will be banned from exporting fish products to the EU.

The Commission is also expected to yellow-card up to three more states, warning them of their imminent blacklisting if they do not improve fisheries management and vessel control policies.

The names and information about the countries listed by the Commission will be made available at the following link at around 12.00CET on 26 November:

The move is a clear signal that the EU, one of the largest markets for seafood products in the world, is ready to use its purchasing power to force improvements in global fisheries. On 20 August 2013, the EU had already imposed an EU import ban on fisheries products from the Faroe Islands.                            

EU oceans policy director Saskia Richartz said: “This is a very welcome development in the shift towards sustainable fishing. The Commission has acted for the first time to curb the effect that European fish imports have on the long term viability of global fish stocks and the fight against illegal fishing. We believe that today’s announcement will serve to motivate all six countries to improve fisheries management and help create a better future for their seas and fishermen.”

The blacklisting of so-called non-cooperating states is based on the EU’s 2008 regulation on Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing. In addition to import bans on seafood products and vessels from the countries listed, the regulation prohibits EU fishermen from operating vessels that fly the flag of listed countries and prevents the EU fishing industry from entering into business or fishing arrangements with governments or the fishing industry in those countries.


2.       EU’s biggest foreign fisheries deal under scrutiny

The fisheries committee of the European Parliament will vote on the controversial EU fisheries agreement with Morocco, which opens access for the EU’s fishing industry to the waters of Morocco and the disputed territory of Western Sahara. The EU-Morocco agreement is the EU’s biggest international fisheries agreement, both in terms of its monetary value and the total amount of fish that can be caught.

EU oceans policy director Saskia Richartz said: “Any deal with Morocco must address human rights and environmental issues in the region. The European Parliament has rejected previous deals as they failed to take into account the unsustainable level of fishing and the needs of the Sahrawi people. This new draft does not substantially alter the situation. We are particularly concerned that an increase in fishing pressure for small fish like sardines, anchovies and sardinella will lead to their decline and clash with the interests of local people.”

Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco since 1975. The UN and the EU have recognised Western Sahara as a “non-self-governing territory” and neither has recognised the territorial claims of Morocco. Nonetheless, the EU has entered into a series of controversial agreements with the Moroccan government to gain access for EU vessels to fishing grounds off the coast of Morocco and Western Sahara.

In December 2011, the European Parliament rejected a temporary extension of a previous deal on the grounds that it would contribute to overfishing and would be in conflict with the rights and interests of the Sahrawi people in Western Sahara. Consequently, no EU-registered vessels have been allowed to fish in the waters of Morocco and Western Sahara since January 2012.

The latest protocol awaiting a vote in the European Parliament was signed by Morocco and the European Commission in July 2013. EU member states endorsed the deal on 14 November 2013. The European Parliament plenary vote is currently scheduled for the week of 9 December 2013.

Last week, shocking images were released showing a Moroccan-Swedish vessel fishing in the area as it discards hundreds of thousands of unwanted dead fish:

Similar dumping of fish also takes place on land:


Saskia Richartz - Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director: +32 (0) 495 290 028,

Ed Davitt - Greenpeace media officer: +32 (0)476 988 584,

For breaking news and comment on EU affairs:

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