Mauritian fishermen are annoyed that the European Union (EU) vessels are depleting their fish resources.
The EU vessels are operating in those waters under a Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) signed in February 2012 between Mauritius and the EU.
This agreement authorizes 86 vessels to capture 5500 tons of fish a year, in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the island for a period of six years.
The agreement is automatically renewed for an additional period of three years. The EU has paid an annual fee of €660.000 ($863, 127) to Port Louis.
According to the Nairobi-based think tank, Analysis Africa (AA), the EU fishing trawlers, mainly from Spain, France and Portugal, are currently scouring the sea around Mauritius.
Local fishermen need to go further out in the sea to be able to catch fish, according to AA.
“Fish that was abundant in the lagoons around the island in the past have now disappeared because of over-fishing and also because of pollution as evidenced by the official statistics,” AA says in a recently-released report.
“In 2002, Mauritius produced some 8000 tons of tuna but this production declined to about 2800 tons in 2010.”
Mauritius is selling its tuna at 4.56 Mauritian rupees (MUR) a kilo while the population hardly has any tuna and, if ever it is available, they must pay more than $6 for a kilo. (29.50MUR = $1).
Both economists and marine scientists are yet to come to terms with the core reason why Mauritius has signed such an agreement with the EU when countries like Morocco and Senegal have refused to do so.
Mauritius has been resisting such an agreement for the last seven years but finally bowed and agreed to sign it in late 2012.
According to marine scientists, EU’s interests in Indian Ocean fish is fuelled by the fact that fish stocks have declined in the other oceans due to over-fishing.
Mauritian authorities believe the FPA with the EU is the only way to exploit this vast fishing zone of 2.3 million sq km.
The island has no major fishing vessels. It thus needs help from “friendly-countries” to exploit its rich marine resources.
Mauritian Fisheries Minister, Nicolas Von Mally, is concerned by the fate of the 12000 fishermen earning a living from the tuna canneries of the island where the fish are offloaded by the EU vessels at the port in Port-Louis for processing.
About 95 percent of the production from the 90 000 tons of raw tuna is exported to European markets.