Morocco has no intention of signing a new fishing accord with the European Union, a top fisheries official said on the eve of a meeting on the issue set to take place in Brussels on Monday.
Rabat refused in November 1999 to renew a fishing accord that allowed some 600 EU boats, mostly Spanish, to fish in Morocco's territorial waters in exchange for compensation totaling around 125 million Euros (100 million dollars).
The official, who requested anonymity, said Sunday that the Moroccan authorities could at the most allow trawling and fishing for black hake on the strict condition that catches were unloaded at Moroccan ports.
"But even that isn't certain, given the very strong opposition of the business to the presence of foreign boats in Moroccan territorial waters," the official said.
The exceptions would involve about 100 boats, he said.
The fish stock off Morocco's coast is more depleted than previously feared, the official said.
In the past, cephalopods -- squid, cuttlefish and octopus -- were given two months to recover from a fishing campaign, but now need five and a half months, he noted, adding that prawns take two months compared with a month and a half before.
He said some three-quarters of small fishing boats were idle, along with nearly half the coasters that usually operate, about one-third of the large fishing vessels and more than half of the sardine farms in the zone.
The official said the 125-million-Euro compensation had been "fool's gold" since massive fishing by EU vessels had caused prices to plummet.
"For prawns alone, the prices more than doubled in the second half of 1995 when Spanish fishermen were banned," he said – RABAT (AFP)
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