Mauritania and EU sign fishing accord

Fishing boats float on March 11, 2006 in the local fishing port of Charca Nouadibou (AFP Photo/Seyllou Diallo)

Nouakchott (AFP) - Mauritania and the European Union announced on Friday they had signed a "win-win" fishing accord after 16 months of heated debate on the EU's financial contribution.

The bloc will contribute 100 million euros ($112 million) a year to Mauritania's fishing industry, down from the 110 million it gave under the previous deal.

The European fleet's quota is reduced from an annual 300,000 tonnes of fish to 225,000 over the four-year contract.

EU international affairs and markets director Stefaan Depypere said during a ceremony to seal the accord that the sides had reached a "win-win" agreement that benefited both.

Mauritanian negotiator Cheikh Ould Baya used the same phrase to sum up the deal and said exclusive rights on octopus and sardinella for local fishermen would create jobs and "make life easier in the countries of origin of illegal immigration" to Europe.

The two sides agreed that the EU boats fishing in Mauritanian waters would continue to be staffed 60 percent by locals.

According to official statistics, the fishing sector represents over 20 percent of budget revenue and employs more than 36,000 people in Mauritania.