The EU started to seek fisheries agreements with third countries after the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982). The first such agreement with Mauritania was concluded in 1987, with successive agreements part of a broader development and cooperation framework.
Successive reforms of the Common Fisheries Policy have led to a new generation of Fisheries Partnership Agreements (FPAs), which encourage the development of sustainable fisheries management in third countries, while providing access to EU fleets. The current EU-Mauritania FPA is the most important fisheries agreement both in terms of volume and financial contribution (€70 million per year).
In July 2012, the Commission initialled a two-year protocol which is provisionally in force, pending the consent of the European Parliament on its ratification. Welcomed by Mauritanian fishermen for reducing pressure on the fish stocks and decreasing competition with locals, the new provisions met with strong criticism from the EU fishing industry. Stumbling blocks include increased ship-owners’ fees, reduced fishing zones and catch volumes, and most significantly, the exclusion of octopus stocks (of particular interest to the Spanish fleet).
In May 2013, the Fisheries Committee refused to give its approval to the conclusion of the protocol, forming the view that the agreement was not economically viable.