Chapter 5. EU payments to Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau for MPA conservation under the Fisheries Partnership Agreements

This chapter examines efforts to establish sustainable financing for marine protected areas in the biodiversity-rich West African countries of Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau. The case study focusses on how both countries secured financial resources from Fisheries Partnership Agreements with the European Union to capitalise conservation trust funds that are intended to provide long-term and sustainable financing for marine protected areas. This case study draws lessons from the political economy aspects of establishing and capitalising these trust funds. It emphasises the importance of building a shared understanding of the benefits of marine ecosystems to an economically important industry. It also highlights the role of environmental NGOs to secure agreement among key actors and how advances to secure sustainable financing for marine conservation can be threatened by changing political priorities.



The coast of West Africa has been identified as a marine eco-region of global importance. The region’s fisheries are an important contributor to GDP, providing livelihoods for fishers and processors, as well as a source of hard currency (from exports of fishery products). Fisheries also boost government revenues through fisheries agreements and taxes. The pressure on West African fish stocks increased considerably over the past decades, mainly due to over-fishing. In Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau, conservation trust funds were created to provide sustainable financing to marine protected areas (MPAs) with the objective of channelling funds, including from the European Union (EU) through Fisheries Partnership Agreements. This case study demonstrates how concerted lobbying efforts by environmental NGOs established a shared understanding of the benefits that marine conservation could bring to the fisheries sector. It also highlights how wavering political support as a result of changing leadership can threaten the long-term stability of financing for conservation and the importance of a secure legal basis for agreements to avoid back-sliding.

5.1. Conserving marine biodiversity as the basis for sustainable fisheries in West Africa

The coast of West Africa, from Mauritania in the North to Sierra Leone 3 200 km in the South, has been identified as a Marine Ecoregion1 of global importance, essential in maintaining regionally and globally threatened biodiversity (WWF Wamer and Wetlands International, 2007). Cape Verde for example, harbours one of the most important coral reefs in the world with numerous unique and rare species, making it a one of ten global hot-spots for coral communities (Roberts et al., 2002). Guinea-Bissau hosts the largest mangrove area in West Africa and the most important green turtle nesting site in West and Central Africa, on the Island of Poilão (Catry et al., 2009; 2002). Cap Blanc, Mauritania has one of the largest remaining sub-populations of the endangered Mediterranean monk seal. More than two million shorebirds spend the northern winter in the Banc d’Arguin National Park (PNBA) in Mauritania, which protects one of several coastal areas critical for migratory birds all along the West African coast (Engelmoer et al., 1984; Wolff et al., 1993).

The up-welling of cold water and nutrients in the West African Marine Ecoregion supports a fishing zone of global importance, that makes a significant contribution to the local economies of coastal states in the ecoregion (Diop and Scheren, 2016). In addition to supplying food, fishing activities contribute to gross domestic product (GDP), provide livelihoods for fishers and processors, provide a source of hard currency (from exports of fishery products), and boost government revenues through fisheries agreements and taxes (de Graaf and Garibaldi, 2014). Fish contributes to at least 20% of the total animal protein intake in the coastal countries of West Africa (FAO, 2009). Fishing activities are a major contributor to GDP in the West African Marine Ecoregion, ranging from 5% of GDP in Mauritania (COFREPECHE, NFDS, POSEIDON and MRAG, 2014) to 2.51% in The Gambia, compared to an African average of 1.26% according to FAO (de Graaf and Garibaldi, 2014). The fishing industry directly employs around 129 000 people in Senegal, 40 000 in The Gambia, and 64 000 in Guinea ( de Graaf, G. and Garibaldi, 2014).

Over-fishing is currently the main threat to marine and coastal ecosystems in West Africa (WWF Wamer and Wetlands International, 2007), although coastal development, oil industry, pollution, and climate change, are also key concerns. More specifically, the pressure on West African fish stocks increased six-fold between the 1960s and the1990s, due to fishing by European, Russian and Asian fleets (Hogan, 2003), but also as a result of the substantial expansion of artisanal fisheries (Matthew, 2003). The impact of overfishing is several orders of magnitude greater than that of the unsustainable fishing practices of small-scale artisanal fisheries (with the use of destructive fishing gear) (Diop and Scheren, 2016; Failler, 2006).

NGOs have played an important role in efforts towards the implementation of sustainable fishing in the West African Ecoregion, at least for the European fleets (Brown, 2005; Failler, 2006; IEEP, 2002). In 2004, the European Council paved the way for a new generation of agreements, the Fisheries Partnership Agreements (FPAs),2 to allow EU vessels to fish for surplus stocks in foreign exclusive economic zones (EEZs) (EC, 2015). These agreements focus on resource conservation, environmental sustainability,3 and contribute to the social and economic development of the partner countries. In exchange, the EU provides a financial contribution to the partner countries, which includes two components: 1) a financial contribution for access rights to the fisheries resources within the EEZ (which can be used at the discretion of the partner country) and 2) “sectoral” financial support, which aims to promote sustainable fisheries development in the partner countries and is spent according to an agreed programming (depending on the needs identified by the partner country) (EC, 2015). In addition, EU-vessel owners also pay for licenses for fish-catches.

In the West Africa Marine Ecoregion, the FPA initiated in 2006 with Mauritania was the EU’s single largest agreement, both in financial terms (EUR 86 million a year directly from the EU), and in terms of fisheries opportunities (approximately 200 licences were available for European vessels to fish in Mauritanian waters) (EC, 2007). The agreement has recently been renewed, committing EUR 59 million per year to the partnership, with EUR 4 million supporting the fishing communities, including environmental sustainability, job creation and tackling illegal and unregulated fishing. Others countries of the Ecoregion with a FPA with the EU include Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and Senegal.

Compared to the purely commercial agreements,4 the FPAs seek to reinforce the development dimension of the EU agreements (EC, 2007). The financial contributions made by the EU are a very significant source of revenue for fisheries administrations and, in some cases, the economy of partner countries as a whole (The evaluation partnership, Poseidon, MRAG, 2010). In 2009, the total EU contributions were 15 times the national budget for fisheries in Mauritania and accounted for more than 16% of the country’s total public revenues; the EU contribution is comparable in Guinea-Bissau (15.6% of total public revenues) (Oceana, 2011).

While the new generation of fisheries agreements are an improvement compared to simple access agreements, their practical implementation could be improved (European Court of Auditors, 2015; Ould Ahmed Salem, 2012). A 2015 report by the European Court of Auditors concluded that the FPAs are generally well managed by the European Commission, but that there are still areas for improvement in terms of the negotiation process and the implementation of protocols. In principle, the FPAs should only allow EU vessels to fish the surplus resources of partner countries. However, this concept of surplus is very difficult to apply in practice due to lack of reliable information on fish stocks and fishing effort of the various fleets. Further, the report found that the implementation of access conditions was not sufficiently robust and the Commission’s role in monitoring implementation of the protocols was limited (European Court of Auditors, 2015). Earlier reviews of FPAs have raised similar concerns about the effectiveness of the agreements in improving sustainable fisheries management.

Even with such mixed results, FPAs play an important role in the wider effort to improve the sustainability of fisheries. The recognition of the EU’s responsibility in promoting sustainable fishing activities and the conservation of marine resources, especially in developing countries,5 has been highlighted by the European Economic and Social Committee. Furthermore, on 10 December 2015 the European Commission adopted a proposal to revise the Regulation 1006/2008 on fishing authorisations6 in view of regulatory developments on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (European Parliament, 2015), to promote transparent and sustainable fisheries.

In addition to limiting overfishing, establishing MPAs can also help to conserve marine biodiversity. Countries in the West African region have a long experience of MPA establishment and management: the National Parks of Banc d’Arguin (Mauritania), Langue de Barbarie and Sine Saloum Delta (Senegal), for example, were created as early as 1976. The identification of ecological corridors between MPAs, and the pooling of countries’ conservation efforts and needs resulted in the establishment of a regional network of MPAs in West Africa in 2007, which currently comprises 23 MPAs (WWF, 2005; Kimball, 2003).

Management of MPAs typically involves zoning different areas with different types or levels of permitted use, including fishing. For instance, many MPAs in Guinea-Bissau allow fishing by people living in and around them, with restrictions on the technology or gear they may use. Many MPAs in the Ecoregion also include areas that are strictly closed to fishing. Thus, the distinction between fishing regulations to promote sustainable use, and regulations creating MPAs can be blurry as they sometimes overlap. Nevertheless, regulating fishing practices and establishing MPAs forms the basis for a policy mix of “sea-sharing” and “sea-sparing”7 that can benefit both biodiversity and fishing. Indeed, the effectiveness of MPAs in ensuring more sustainable fisheries has been documented in many cases (Garcia et al., 2013; Guénette et al., 2014; OECD, forthcoming).

5.2. Opportunities for innovative financing of marine protected areas

An important challenge for effective MPA management in West Africa is long term financing. In a context where national capacities for government funding of MPA management are low, project-based support by international donors has played an important role. In general, donor funding for MPAs is part of a wider portfolio of finance, and tends to support establishment costs, training, and other forms of capacity building, as well as putting frameworks in place for them to become financially self-sufficient (OECD, forthcoming). Such support, however, is mostly short-term and vulnerable to changes in donor priorities (Carr-Dirick and Klug, 2002).

Conservation trust funds (CTFs) have been proposed as an innovative solution to this challenge. CTFs have been defined as “private, legally independent grant-making institutions that provide sustainable financing for biodiversity conservation and often finance part of the long-term management costs of a country’s protected area system” (CFA, 2008). Their main advantages and challenges and some distinctions among stakeholders are summarised in Table 5.1.

Table 5.1. Advantages and challenges related to conservation trust funds

All stakeholders


Funds can provide a vehicle for collaboration among the government, NGOs, and the private sector.

Capacity to involve a wide range of stakeholders with participatory structures.

Capacity to attract a diverse range of national and international funding sources.

Funds are a stable, long-term source of funding, allow long-term planning and strategy implementation.

Local stakeholders (e.g. governments)

External stakeholders (e.g. donors)

Advantages for specific stakeholders

Capacity to avoid much of the bureaucracy of large donor or financial agencies.

Funds are politically independent, and therefore ensure continuity from one government to another.

Capacity to absorb major amounts of funding and disburse it over time.

All stakeholders


Funds can result in decreased government or donor spending and commitment in these areas.

Funds require highly technical, expensive and sophisticated management skills for the fund administration.

Funds can face enormous pressure to disburse funds, particularly after lengthy start-up phases.

Funds can finance activities disconnected with national environment strategies and priorities.

Local stakeholders

External stakeholders

Challenges for specific stakeholders

Funds tie up substantial amounts of scarce resources, and often generate modest amounts of income.

Funds give direction and control of potentially large sums of resources to independent organisations (although governments and donors may be represented on their boards).

Funds can be overwhelmed with demands for resources from a variety of sources (often well beyond the environmental groups originally involved).

Source: Adapted from GEF Secretariat, 1998.

In Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau, CTFs were created to provide sustainable financing to MPAs with the objective of channelling funds from a range of donors, including funds received from the EU via FPAs. This can be considered akin to an international payments for ecosystem services (PES) scheme in both countries,8 given the definition by Wunder (2015).

5.3. The creation of conservation trust funds and their capitalisation

BACoMaB and EU-Mauritania Fisheries Partnership Agreements

The impetus for establishing a trust fund for marine conservation in Mauritania emerged in the early 2000, in a context of declining donor support (Beddiyouh, 2016). Conservation organisations working in Mauritania began to explore ways of achieving more sustainable financing for the PNBA. A feasibility study for the creation of a trust fund for the PNBA was undertaken, commissioned by the PNBA and partners (WWF, GTZ, FIBA). It proposed, among other measures, that the government of Mauritania capitalise the trust fund in part with funds received under the FPA with the EU (Carr-Dirick and Klug, 2002). This would be considered as a financial contribution by the governments, thereby following recommendations by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for the creation of CTFs (GEF Secretariat, 1998).

Lobbying, co-ordination of stakeholder interests and actions then followed. This was driven, in particular, by the Fondation Internationale du Banc d’Arguin (FIBA9), a long-term partner of PNBA with a strong influence on conservation in Mauritania (Goyet, 2016; Renaud, 2016). Persistent and determined lobbying of different institutions of the EU (DG Fisheries, DG Research, DG Development, DG Environment) between 2003 and 2005 led to their endorsement of the idea of financing MPAs for their role in the conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources (Goyet, 2016). This generated support by the highest authorities in the EU (Office of the President of the European Commission) for PNBA to be a key element of FPAs with Mauritania (Goyet, 2016).

Lobbying of the EU resulted in an annual allocation within the FPA to finance the PNBA.10 The first protocol (2006-08) of the 2006-12 FPA came with financial compensation for access by EU vessels to Mauritania’s waters (EUR 75 million per annum)11 and financial support for the implementation of the national fisheries policy to enhance responsible fishing and the sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources (EUR 11 million per annum). Of this EUR 11 million of sectoral support, the protocol also clearly stated EUR 1 million per annum should be allocated to funding the PNBA (Official Journal of the European Union, 2006, Article 2, paragraphs 1, 5). Financial contributions by the EU to PNBA therefore, i) echoed the principle of resource conservation on which the European fisheries policy is based, ii) were based on the results of research within the PNBA that identified the Banc d’Arguin as a key contributor to the fish resources (Guénette et al., 2014), and iii) were linked to the sectoral financial support included in the FPA with Mauritania. Support to PNBA represented 1.62% of the FPA (EUR 86 million in total), which was considered acceptable by the Government of Mauritania (Appriou, 2016).

The creation of the BACoMaB Trust Fund in 2009, under English Law,12 was also a key factor in securing support for the PNBA (Goyet, 2016). Donors considering contributions to the trust fund, however, also raised the issue of additionality. They were concerned that BACoMaB would substitute state support for PNBA (Beddiyouh, 2016).

To ensure support by the Mauritanian government, conservation organisations also lobbied the highest government authorities, including the Ministry of Environment and PNBA itself (Goyet, 2016). The PNBA Director also lobbied the EU to secure funds for the BACoMaB (Appriou, 2016). The commitment of the Mauritanian government was reflected in the National Finance Act of 2007, where EUR 1 million per annum is earmarked for PNBA, thereby guaranteeing that the transfer would take place. The 2006-12 FPA did not mention direct support for the trust fund, which was only created in 2009. Nevertheless, the original idea was to use part of the revenues from the EU FPAs as a government contribution to the BACoMaB Trust Fund that was then being put in place (Goyet, 2016).

Persistent lobbying of the executive of PNBA by conservation organisations also led to the director of PNBA and the Minister of Environment to agree, in 2007, to allocate 50% of the funds received by PNBA under the FPAs (EUR 500 000 per year) to the endowment of the future trust fund (Goyet, 2016). The rationale for PNBA was that the funds it was going to receive under the FPAs largely exceeded its absorption capacity. In this context, transferring part of the funding to an endowment seemed appropriate (Beddiyouh, 2016). The financing scheme implemented in Mauritania is illustrated in Figure 5.1.

Figure 5.1. Funding marine protected areas in Mauritania from Fisheries Partnership Agreements through a conservation trust fund

Source: Adapted from Binet et al., 2013.

The trust fund is not funded directly. Under the FPA, the EU provides sectoral support funds that are paid into Mauritania’s national budget. The Mauritanian government then channels part of the sectoral financial support (EUR 1 million per annum in the 2006-08 and 2008-12 protocols) to the PNBA. Until 2013, the PNBA then contributed to the endowment of the BACoMaB trust fund.13 Therefore, another potential funding channel, allowing direct contribution from Mauritanian government to the BACoMaB trust fund (the black arrow in Figure 5.1), is under discussion by parties in the context of negotiations for future agreements (see discussion below). The government’s commitment to contribute to the BACoMaB trust fund has been a key factor in attracting additional contributions from others partners, such as the French Development Agency (Agence Française de Développement) (Chiron, 2016), KfW and the MAVA foundation.

As of April 2015, commitments to endow BACoMaB had reached EUR 22.3 million, of which EUR 21.3 million has been disbursed. The Mauritanian government has contributed EUR 2.8 million from the 2006-08 and 2008-12 protocols of the FPA (of which EUR 1.8 million has been disbursed). AFD has disbursed EUR 3.5 million (including EUR 1 million from the French Global Environment Fund, Fonds Français pour l’Environnement Mondial). KfW and MAVA have disbursed EUR 10 and 6 million respectively. For a trust fund established as recently as 2009, this level of capitalisation is very satisfactory according to some observers. It has, however, been achieved progressively, which means that the trust fund has yet to be a major source of support for conservation activities in Mauritania (Lefghih, 2016). Between 2014 and 2016, the trust fund disbursed grants for EUR 650 000 euros, for coastal and maritime surveillance, conservation, and research activities (BACoMaB, 2015). The evolution of the implementation of BACoMaB is illustrated in Figure 5.2.

Figure 5.2. The establishment of the BACoMaB Trust Fund and its funding through the Fisheries Partnership Agreement

Source: Interviews with: Appriou, 2016; Beddiyouh, 2016; Chiron, 2016; Goyet, 2016; Lefghih, 2016; Renaud, 2016.

Fundação BioGuinea trust fund and EU-Guinea-Bissau Fisheries Partnership Agreements

The protected areas system of Guinea-Bissau has gone through important changes since 2000 during a period of normalisation following the 1998-99 civil war and the subsequent return of international donors. Prior to 2000, parks were poorly managed (“paper parks”), with limited support by donors. In the early 2000s, the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme convened a dialogue in Guinea-Bissau on the necessary institutional arrangements for protected areas resulting in a recommendation to create an Institute of Biodiversity and Protected Areas (IBAP) to bring all protected areas under one roof for more co-ordinated management. This received strong support from donors and led to the funding of several projects. It was in this context that a discussion on establishing a foundation with an endowment fund was initiated in Guinea-Bissau (Yudelman, 2016). A first version of the foundation was created, in the country, with a grant from WWF, however, inspired by the Mauritanian and other country experiences, it was decided to shift the foundation offshore. A second and final version of the trust fund was established under English law in 2011.

As a result of a growing understanding of the relationship between management of coastal and marine protected areas (IBAP’s domain) and sustainable management of fisheries (the Ministry of Fisheries’ domain) a dialogue was launched and an agreement reached, in principle, on the relevance of contributing fisheries funds to support of the management of these important coastal and marine protected areas and the fish breeding and nursery grounds they sustain. The link was thus made between the conservation of the coastal environment and the fisheries of Guinea-Bissau and beyond. This shared understanding at the technical level, ensured this commitment was sustained despite the frequent turn over in governments engendered by Guinea-Bissau’s political instability.

The government of Guinea-Bissau agreed to contribute to the future endowment of the trust fund (i.e. before the foundation was created in 2011) (Goyet, 2016; Renaud, 2016). The government was committed to securing USD 1 million, and funds from sectoral support included in FPA were a potential source for this commitment (Yudelman, 2016). The EU was a strong supporter of the process as they had been involved from the beginning. It was a local discussion with the EU delegation, with DG MARE following the process from a distance (Yudelman, 2016). At the end of 2014, during the negotiations for programming FPA’s sectoral support, the government of Guinea-Bissau negotiated that the EU support half of USD 1 million commitment as a contribution to the Fundação BioGuinea Trust Fund (FBG) (Bastos, 2016).

The FBG and its trust fund was legally established and registered in 2011 under English Law and has a charitable organisation status in UK with a host agreement allowing it to operate in Guinea-Bissau. A core objective of its mission is to generate sustainable finance for the benefit of the national system of protected areas and biodiversity in Guinea-Bissau. The trust fund is currently in the process of securing its initial seed capital. Commitments in the order of EUR 5 million have been received, which include EUR 1 million from the government, of which USD 500 000 is to be drawn from the sectoral support included in the 2014-17 Protocol of the FPA with the EU (as specified in the approved joint programming for 2015), and the rest from others sources (Bastos, 2016) . The first tranche of EUR 500 000 was transferred by the government to the FBG in January 2016.

The experience of BACoMaB was a key factor in the creation of the FBG trust fund in Guinea-Bissau. The same international partners were involved in conservation in both countries. The enthusiasm and willingness of particular advocates for the scheme, including people in government was also an important factor of success.

The creation of a CTF in Guinea-Bissau and its funding through the FPA with the EU were successful, in part, thanks to a favorable institutional context for conservation. This context had been encouraged by various laws enacted between 1997 and 2011, which led to the establishment of a network of protected areas including several MPAs, and the creation, in 2005, of IBAP. Both IBAP and FBG are autonomous, financially and otherwise, and the directors are competitively selected (rather than being nominated). This has enabled continuity in leadership, which is harder to achieve in government agencies and Ministries. Another factor of success was that the arrangement built on prior initiatives and the long term engagement of NGOs such as IUCN and FIBA. Gaining support takes time, but the absence of pre-existing institutions (such as government-led park agencies or funding bodies) that could have blocked change also facilitated the process. The creation of the current set of institutions and the arrangement described here took place as many of the country’s institutions were being rebuilt following the civil war.

5.4. Challenges to effective implementation of the conservation trust funds

Several challenges have been encountered in the long term effective implementation of the CTFs in both Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau. First, political acceptance of the arrangement has been limited by insufficient awareness of the importance of the conservation efforts and their need for sustainable financing. In Mauritania, the commitment of the government to establish a PES via the FPA seems to have been insufficient and lacked stability. This is evidenced in the decrease of its support for the PNBA over subsequent protocols, which is largely attributable to the changes in the perspectives of Mauritanian authorities over time (Appriou, 2016). For example, the first two Protocols (2006-08 and 2008-12) of the 2006-12 FPA clearly stated the share of the sectoral support (EUR 1 million of the 11 million, annually) that should be allocated to the PNBA. The following Protocols (2012-14 and 2015-19) significantly reduced sectoral support (EUR 3 million and EUR 4.125 million, respectively).

Negotiations for the two most recent Protocols (2012-14 and 2015-19) to earmark funding for MPAs through CTFs were difficult. Although the EU remains committed to the idea, new staff at the Mauritanian Ministry of Environment and the PNBA, who had not been involved in the establishment of the original agreement, challenged the rationale for contributing to the endowment, in a context where government priorities had shifted (Goyet, 2016). Moreover, at the institutional level, the current PNBA director is not systematically willing to transfer funds to the BACoMaB (Appriou, 2016; Beddiyouh, 2016).

Difficulties and delays in the actual disbursement of funds committed by the government were another political barrier for the financing scheme to achieve effective outcomes. The original commitment stipulated that the BACoMaB should have received half of EUR 6 million, over the period of the 2006-12 Protocols. However, as of 2014, only EUR 2 million had been paid into the endowment (Goyet, 2016). Difficulties in disbursements are due, in part, to the fact that until 2012, single payments were made to the Ministry of Finance under sectorial support and the broader financial compensation for access to the fisheries resources (Appriou, 2016). Under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), sectoral support is decoupled from the business side of the agreements.14 This is more effective in terms of conditionality, including transferring of funds to PNBA, as payments for sectoral support may be canceled if conditions are not met (Appriou, 2016).

The FPA contributed to increase significantly Mauritania’s budget for the conservation of marine and coastal protected areas. Distributing this financial support among different, competing, stakeholders is a challenge, which can stifle reform in favour of marine biodiversity in Mauritania. In Mauritania, PNBA and BACoMAB compete for FPA funds, in spite of their supposedly shared interest for conserving the Banc d’Arguin. The current executives of the PNBA wish to benefit from the totality of the FPA funds and regularly criticise the legal basis for channeling funds to BACoMAB, stating that the CTF itself is not mentioned in the Protocols, or in the Mauritanian budget law of 2007. The government’s contribution is based on a legally questionable agreement between the Director of PNBA in 2013 (which has since been replaced by a new Director) and the BACoMaB (Beddiyouh, 2016). This has offered the legal basis for the current Director of PNBA to challenge the use of PNBA funds for the endowment of BACoMaB (Beddiyouh, 2016).

The use of the trust funds has also been challenged because of a perceived lack of effectiveness. Specifically, the delay in getting BACoMaB capitalised has meant that 4 years separate the first allocation of government funds (2010) and the first grants made to park authorities (2014). In addition, the funds are not fully in the hands of government authorities,15 which generates frustration (Appriou, 2016; Lefghih, 2016). Moreover, the grants made by BACoMaB (EUR 650 000) represent a small proportion of the amount of capital tied up in the endowment (EUR 22.3 million) and the decision to allocate funds to an endowment has been further challenged in the context of low interest rates. As a result, the PNBA has suspended request for disbursement to BACoMaB since 2013 (Lefghih, 2016).

Donors, however, remain supportive to a certain extent. Ensuring the financial sustainability of the PNBA through BACoMaB remains an important objective for the EU (Appriou, 2016), in line with the CFP. This is motivated, in particular, by the multi-level governance set up by the trust fund to manage its endowment, allocate grants, and monitor and evaluate the activities of beneficiaries, which PNBA currently lacks (Appriou, 2016; Lefghih, 2016). In this context, a direct and unconditional allocation of funds to PNBA is difficult to justify before the EU Court of Auditors (Beddiyouh, 2016). BACoMaB recently took the initiative to address a request for direct funding to the EU and the Mauritanian Ministry of Fisheries, and they appear to have obtained positive feedback. This potential new channel to receiving funds from EU is currently being discussed (Appriou, 2016; Beddiyouh, 2016).

In Guinea-Bissau, the arrangement is more recent. Government commitments to the FBG trust fund remain ad hoc, and are not currently challenged, but concerns have been raised that it is now time for the trust fund to show that it can indeed support conservation activities. In this context, the French Global Environment Fund recently granted support to a set of pilot programmes to be run by the trust fund independently of its endowment. This initiative results from the hard lessons learned in Mauritania.

5.5. Challenges, opportunities and lessons learned

Both Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau have secured financial resources from FPAs with the EU to capitalise conservation trust funds that are intended to provide long-term and sustainable financing for the establishment and management of marine protected areas. These, in return, maintain the fishing potential of the surrounding seascapes, to the benefit of the EU fishing fleets. This arrangement can be considered an international payment for ecosystem services. From a political economy perspective, several lessons can be drawn from the experience of Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau.

Concerted lobbying efforts by environmental NGOs drove the establishment of the conservation trust funds

Putting such a system in place and ensuring it is maintained has revealed a number of challenges. Broad support must be established, which requires a shared understanding of the benefits that MPAs bring to the fishing sector and the benefits trust funds bring to marine conservation. In Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau, a well-established and credible “broker”, namely FIBA, played a key role in establishing this consensus, through active lobbying and in the co-ordination of all those involved in country, in the EU, and in the broader donor community. IUCN also played an instrumental role in Guinea-Bissau, by laying the ground-work for broader institutional change concerning conservation. In addition, the continuous engagement by the World Bank was critical in enabling the FBG to be established and operationalised.

Substantial amounts of funding, well in excess of the immediate needs of the MPAs for maritime surveillance, created favorable enabling conditions, although competition for funds remains high. Shifts in EU policy, with growing concerns for more sustainable fishing practices, provided an important lever to convince national authorities to engage in the process. Aligning the interests of governments and the conservation community was essential to seize the opportunity offered by shifts in the EU’s fisheries policy. Support from other donors (KfW, AFD, MAVA Foundation) was, in part, built on the demonstrable commitment of governments to engage in the process, and on the innovative character of the arrangement.

Wavering political support threatens long-term stability of financing arrangements

Once established, maintaining support for the arrangement can be difficult. In a context where governments’ priorities have shifted away from conservation (resulting in fewer resources for sectoral support under the FPAs) and where lower interest rates challenge the rationale for placing funds in an endowment, it is unclear whether and how resources from FPAs will continue to support marine conservation.

In the case of BACoMaB in Mauritania, it seems that several years after the creation of the trust fund the government is not fully supportive of continuing to allocate a proportion of the funds received under the FPA for MPA conservation. The government is not naturally willing to earmark funds to an endowment aimed at securing long-term financing which could otherwise be used for short-term sectoral priorities.

FPAs and protocols are renegotiated on a regular basis, as are government budgets, which could jeopardise long-term commitments. Given these risks, it would be useful to ensure that conservation interests be represented in these negotiations, e.g. through the Ministry of Environment. The EU clearly has an important role to play in making support towards the conservation of marine biodiversity part of the negotiations.

Such uncertainties in the continued commitment of governments are one of the main justifications for establishing conservation trust funds in the first place, and the EU is now considering direct financing of trust funds in situations where it is supported by the partner country and is considered beneficial to ensuring its own goals (and financial management rules) under the CFP are met. It appears, however, that local support for conservation trust funds requires that they rapidly demonstrate their potential as actual grant-makers. Systematically associating revolving and sinking funds to endowments would help mitigate this perceived “taking-away” of scarce and valuable resources from short-term needs.

In the context of competition for scarce resource, securing benefits for the environment requires a strong legal basis

Policies and their reforms in the context of developing countries are often interrupted due to lack of funding or financing restrictions by donors. This undermines the achievements and progress made. Securing progress requires funding mechanisms that are financially and institutionally sustainable, such as conservation trust funds. However, securing the institutional framework underpinning the financial arrangement is equally important. In Mauritania, the capitalization of the endowment, based on an informal understanding, was rapidly challenged as leadership of partner institutions changed. This has jeopardised the partnership between the trust fund and the protected area authorities. A possible solution lies in making the trust fund an autonomous player, which can defend its role and interests, and establish a national constituency. The discussions that BACoMaB have initiated with the EU and the Mauritanian Ministry of Fisheries, independently of the PNBA and the Ministry of Environment, hint at the potential to enable the CTF to act as a new, independent, advocate for biodiversity.


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← 1. The West African Marine Ecoregion spans Mauritania, Senegal, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Sierra Leone (WWF, 2003).

← 2. Under the latest reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which took effect on 1 January 2014, FPAs were renamed “Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements”.

← 3. Fleet access is negotiated to ensure that stocks are exploited in a sustainable manner, taking into account the precautionary and the Maximum Sustainable Yield approaches and favouring access priority of domestic fleets (European Commission, 2015). The FPAs intend to adhere to the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries through binding conditions for policy and management.

← 4. Fisheries access agreements are agreements between a coastal State and another State for the purpose of providing the fishing vessels of the latter with fishing opportunities in the waters of the former (Bartels et al., 2007). “Purely commercial agreement” refers to access to fisheries resources in exchange for financial compensation without any other concerns.

← 5. A quarter of catches by EU vessels is actually taking place in third country and international waters, reaching 90% for tuna and related species (European Parliament, 2015).

← 6. The Regulation 1006/2008 is also known as the Fishing Authorisation Regulation, which sets out rules regarding the access of third-country vessels to EU waters and the access of EU vessels to non-EU waters.

← 7. The debate on “sea-sharing” and “sea-sparing” refersto the question of sharing the oceans for co-management (allow human activities and nature to coexist by, for example, regulating fishing practices to maintain habitat quality over a larger area, so-called “sea-sharing”) or sparing the oceans for fisheries and MPAs (e.g. concentrating conservation effort on the preservation of wild areas in no-take MPAs, and exploiting other areas for food production as intensively as we can, so‐called “sea-sparing”).

← 8. The conditionality criterion is not fully met as the payment to the MPAs, however, that the conditionality criteria is rarely met in PES, in particular when implemented in developing countries (Muradian et al., 2010).

← 9. In 2014, the FIBA was integrated into the MAVA Foundation, a private Swiss foundation.

← 10. The allocation is carried out by the Mauritanian Treasury, which receives the sectorial support allocation made by the EU.

← 11. In addition to fees paid by ship owners for licenses, paid directly to Mauritania, estimated at EUR 22 million per year (Official Journal of the EU, 2006).

← 12. Most CTFs are lodged out of the country to guarantee their independence and resilience to political shocks, etc. Risks of dissolution for CTFs lodged in the country are greater. The recent dissolution of the Fondo Ambiental Nacional of Ecuador offers a useful example. BACoMaB is under English Law and has a charitable organization status in UK with a host agreement allowing it to operate in Mauritania.

← 13. Since 2013, the new PNBA Director has refused to make this allocation to the BACoMaB.

← 14. Although the CFP reform officially came into effect on 1 January 2014, the implementation of new approaches began as early as 2012.

← 15. Mauritanian authorities, including the Prime Minister and the Ministry for Economy and Finance, are represented on the BACoMaB executive board.