Bilateral agreements with countries outside the EU

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

  • sustainable fisheries partnership agreements (SFPAs) – 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 (SFPA)

EU SFPAs infographic

EU SFPAs infographic  (Available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish, Published 2015)

EU Sustainable fisheries partnership agreements

EU Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements  (Available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish, Published 2020)

Sustainable fisheries agreements with non-EU countries are negotiated and concluded by the Commission on behalf of the EU. They allow EU vessels to fish for surplus stocks in the 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
  • sectorial 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 SFPAs protocols in force with third countries:

  • 9 tuna: Cabo Verde, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Sao Tomé e Principe, Cook Islands, Seychelles, Mauritius. Senegal and The Gambia (the last two also cover hake),
  • 4 mixed agreements: Greenland, Morocco, Mauritania and Guinea Bissau.

The EU has also 7 "dormant" agreements with Gabon, Madagascar, Mozambique, Equatorial Guinea, Kiribati, Micronesia, Solomon Island. "Dormant agreements" stand for countries that have a fisheries partnership agreement which is still in force but there is no implementing protocol in force. 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.

The agreement with Iceland is "dormant".

List of fisheries agreements

Country Expiry date Type Total EU contribution per year Sectorial support per year
Cabo Verde 19.5.2024 Tuna €750 000 €350 000
Comoros Protocol expired on 31.12.2016.  Agreement denounced
Cook Islands 13.10.2021 Tuna €735 000 / €700 000 €350 000
Côte d'Ivoire 31.7.2024 Tuna €682 000 €352 000 (2yrs) - €407 000
Gabon Protocol expired on 23.07.2016
Greenland 31.12.2020 Mixed €16 099 978 €2 931 000
Guinea- Bissau 14.6.2024 Mixed €15 600 000  €4 000 000
Kiribati Protocol expired on 15.09.2015
Liberia 8.12.2020 Tuna €715 000/ €650 000/ €585 000 €357 500/ €325 000/ €292 500
Madagascar Protocol expired on 31.12.2018


Mixed €61 625 000 €4 125 000


Tuna €575 000 €220 000
Micronesia   Protocol expired on 24.02.2010
Morocco 17.07.2023 Mixed €208 million over a 4 year period €17.9 - €20.5 million
Mozambique Protocol expired on 31.01.2015
São Tomé and Principe 18.12.2024 Tuna €840 000 €440 000
Senegal 17.11.2024 Tuna + hake  €1 700 000 €900 000
Seychelles 23.2.2026 Tuna

€5 300 000

€2 800 000
Solomon Islands Protocol expired on 8.10.2012
The Gambia 30.7.2025 Tuna (+ hake component)

€550 000

€275 000
Equatorial Guinea Protocol expired on 30.06.2001

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 ensuring that these are based on the same principles and standards as those applicable under Union law.