WSRW has received videos shot in occupied Western Sahara this morning, showing the arrival of EU vessels that have allegedly been fishing in Mauritanian waters. By landing in Dakhla, the fleet circumvents the Saharawi demonstration currently taking place at Guerguerat.
Last night, four EU fishing vessels that were operating in Mauritanian waters anchored up in Dakhla, Western Sahara, reportedly to land catches they had made in Mauritania.
The practice is unusual, and is allegedly made to export fisheries products from Mauritania overland to Europe. Due to Saharawi civilians undertaking a roadblock in the Guerguerat area, a strip of land in the very south of Western Sahara that is not under Moroccan occupation, the Mauritanian overland fisheries exports by truck is halted. Landing the catches in Dakhla avoids the roadblock.
There is large scale overland export of fisheries products from Moroccan and interational companies that are based in occupied Western Sahara via the port of Nouadhibou in Mauritania. However, there is also a traffic going the other way, from the industry in Mauritania, on overland truck transport to the European market via occupied Western Sahara. The case observed today is a consequence of the latter.
Saharawis have during the last week blocked the road between the occupied territories and Mauritania, in protest of Morocco's continuing violations of international law, through the plundering of the territory's resources.
A similar incident happened in April 2019, when a Saharawi roadblock interrupted the trade through the illegally occupied territory. The Spanish fisheries industry in Mauritania then pressured the EU Commission for amending the EU-Mauritania fisheries agreement to include a possibility to land Mauritanian cathes "in Morocco". According to a media report, the fisheries commissioner promised to take such measures once the Spanish minister of fisheries had reported to him the consequences of the halt of traffic through the territory. It is not known to WSRW how this has been followed up.
Western Sahara Resource Watch finds it disturbing if it is correct that the EU is using the occupied territory for transshipment of fish, irrespective of where it comes from.
Four Spanish vessels arrived Dakhla during 30 and 31 October. The vessels are Septimo (IMO 8733823), Isla de Santa (IMO 9192806), Carmen e Pilar (IMO 9192818) and Virgen de Consolacion (IMO 9212618). Some of them appear in the video taken above. They all fish in Mauritanian waters under the EU-Mauritania fisheries agreement, and the sailors on board are primarily European and Mauritanian.
Isla de Santa stands out among these vessels, as it has on several occasions during its EU-Mauritanian agreement made trips into the waters of Western Sahara.
In addition, a Moroccan flagged vessel Amanouz (MMSI 242074100) could have taken a similar journey from Mauritanian waters. This has however not been confirmed, and it remains unclear under which arrangement that vessel normally operates in Mauritania.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.