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Expiration of Morocco-EU fisheries deal has implications beyond Western Sahara

Fisherman work on a fish farm off the coast of Moroccan city of M'diq, on October 3, 2019. - With fish stocks declining in the Mediterranean, struggling Moroccan fisherman are hoping to turn to aquaculture as a way to secure their future. Figures from Morocco's department of maritime fishing confirm the decline. Catches in the eastern Oriental region dropped from 14.7 tonnes to 7.4 between 2013 and 2017. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP) (Photo by FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images)

The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement between Morocco and the European Union (EU) officially expired on July 17, threatening consequences on EU's relations with Rabat and hurting trade between the two sides .

The deal that had been in place for four years generated $233 million from the bloc to the Maghreb country, in return for licenses for EU fisheries off Morocco's coast. 

The expiration and Rabat's refusal to renew is related to a decision by the General Court of the European Union in 2021 that annulled EU-Morocco trade deals covering farm products and fish, on the grounds that they were agreed to without the consent of the people of Western Sahara.

Morocco regards Western Sahara as its own, while Algeria-backed Polisario rebels have sought to establish an independent state there. Both the US and Israel have recognized Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara but the majority of European countries have declined to do so. 

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