Bilateral agreements with countries outside the EU

Bilateral agreements with countries outside the EU

Bilateral agreements with countries outside the EU

The EU has 2 types of fishing agreements with non-EU countries:

  • fisheries partnership agreements – the EU gives financial and technical support in exchange for fishing rights, generally with southern partner countries.
  • northern agreements – joint management of shared stocks with Norway, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands.

Sustainable fisheries partnership agreements

EU SFPAs infographic

Sustainable fisheries agreements with non-EU countries are negotiated and concluded by the Commission on behalf of the EU. They are intended to allow EU vessels to fish for surplus stocks in that country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), in a legally regulated environment. These agreements also focus on resource conservation and environmental sustainability, ensuring that all EU vessels are subject to the same rules of control and transparency. At the same time, a clause concerning respect for human rights has been included in all protocols to fisheries agreements.
There are two main types of agreements:

Tuna agreements – allow EU vessels to pursue migrating tuna stocks as they move along the shores of Africa and through the Indian Ocean.

Mixed agreements – provide access to a wide range of fish stocks in the partner country's exclusive economic zone.

In exchange, the EU pays the partner countries a financial contribution composed of 2 distinct parts:

  • access rights to the EEZ
  • "sectoral" financial support which aims to promote sustainable fisheries development in the partner countries, by strengthening their administrative and scientific capacity through a focus on sustainable fisheries management, monitoring, control and surveillance.

The EU has currently 13 active SFPAs protocols in force with third countries:

  • 10 tuna agreements: Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Sao Tomé and Principe, Gabon, Madagascar, Senegal, Comoros, Seychelles, Mauritius and Kiribati
  • 3 mixed agreements: Morocco, Greenland and Guinea-Bissau

The EU has also 6 "dormant" agreements with Mozambique, Micronesia, Solomon Island, Mauritania, Gambia and Equatorial Guinea. "Dormant agreements" stand for countries which adopted a fisheries partnership agreement without having a protocol into force, for structural or conjonctural reasons. EU vessels are therefore not allowed to fish in waters under the regime of the dormant agreements.

Northern agreements

EU fishing activities in the North Sea and north-east Atlantic are closely linked to those of our neighbours – Norway, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands. With many of the targeted stocks shared across boundaries, it makes good sense for all 4 parties to coordinate their activities, especially as the different fleets aren’t necessarily interested in the same stocks.

So many of the stocks concerned are jointly managed, and quotas are exchanged to ensure they’re not wasted. Some of these stocks are managed through the intergovernmental North-East Atlantic Fisheries Convention set up to manage fish stocks in the region, while others are managed through agreements between the coastal states.

These agreements are extremely important to a large section of the EU fleet, especially the agreement with Norway, which covers quotas worth over €2bn.

List of fisheries agreements

Country Expiry date Type Total contribution from the EU budget per year Earmarked for fisheries policy development
Cape Verde 22.12.2018 Tuna 550 000 €/ 500 000 € 275 000 €/ 250 000 €
Comoros 31.12.2016 Tuna 600 000 € 300 000 €
Cook Islands n/a Tuna 385 000 / 350 000 € 350 000 €
Côte d'Ivoire 30.6.2018 Tuna 680 000 € 257 500 €
Gabon 23.7.2016  Tuna 1 350 000 €  450 000 €
Greenland 31.12.2020 Mixed 16 099 978 € 2 931 000 €
Guinea- Bissau 23.11.2017 Mixed   9 200 000 € 3 000 000 € 
Kiribati No protocol in force since 16.09.2015
Liberia 8.12.2020 Tuna 715 000 €/ 650 000 €/ 585 000 357 500/ 325 000/ 292 500
Madagascar 31.12.2018 Tuna 1 566 250/
1 487 500 €
700 000 €
 Mauritania 15.11.2019 Mixed 59 125 000 € 4 125 000 €
Mauritius 27.1.2017 Tuna 660 000 €  302 500 € 
Micronesia   No protocol in force since 25.2.2010
Morocco 27.2.2018 Mixed 30 million € 14 million €
Mozambique Protocol expired on 31 January 2015
São Tomé and Principe 22.5.2018 Tuna 710 000/
675 000 €
325 000 €
Senegal 19.11.2019 Tuna (+ hake component)  1 808 000/
1 668 000 € 
750 000 €
Seychelles 17.1.2020 Tuna

5 350 000 € in 2014
To 5 000 000 in 2019

2 600 000 €
Solomon Islands No protocol in force since 9.10.2012

Northern agreements

Country Period
Faeroe Islands 2006 - 2012
Norway 2009 - 2015

Historical and legal context of the bilateral agreements

The European Economic Community concluded its first bilateral fisheries agreements in the late 1970's. More than 30 other bilateral agreements were concluded until today mainly with developing States in Africa or in the Pacific. The negotiation of fisheries bilateral agreements resulted from the adoption of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which establishes a legal sovereignty for coastal states over living marine resources in maritime zones within 200 nautical miles from their baselines (the "Exclusive Economic Zone"). As a result, the conclusion of bilateral agreements with third countries appeared necessary to give European Union fleets access to fish stock surplus that are not used by the coastal states' local fleets.

The Common Fisheries Policy, especially its external dimension, establishes a legal framework for EU fishing activities outside the European waters.