The Association for the Monitoring of the Resources and for the Protection of the Environment in Western Sahara ( AMNPENWS)
Elaaiun March 9, 2016
Pictures and a Story to tell: A Massacre against the Saharawi Fish
On the day of March 4th, 2016, A Moroccan fishing vessel named: TIDZI discarded 150 tons of the Croaker fish known also as Courbine fish. This took place in the high seas of Western Sahara in the C zone that has been plundered for decades now. In fact, fishing by Moroccan and any foreign vessels in Western Saharan waters takes place despite protests by t the local Saharawi civil society activists and by the Polisario Front, recognized by the United Nations since 1979 as the legitimate representative of the people of Western Sahara.
Western Sahara is not part of Morocco – it has the status of a Non-Self-Governing Territory under the Charter of the United Nations, and no country in the world recognizes Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara. Legally speaking, Morocco cannot claim nor seek to exercise sovereign rights in the waters adjacent to the coast of Western Sahara, nor can it extend its fisheries zone into that area. To see such a plunder and such a waste is against all laws and ethics. Fishing by any vessels in Western Sahara’s waters pursuant to an arrangement with the Kingdom of Morocco is contrary to the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara.
Over the years, most fish stocks off the coast of Western Sahara are considered fully exploited or overexploited, as a result of years of intense fishing by local, EU and other foreign fishing fleets. Overfishing in the Saharawi coasts is strongly linked to the excess capacity in the Moroccan national fishing fleet. According to observers and to statistics, there are too many large and destructive fishing vessels, especially the RSW, that ignore deliberately the international law and the ethics of the job as they go on discarding the precious catch, plundering fish and destroying the Saharawis waters.
The Saharawi people have tried in different ways to make their voices heard and to protest against the exploitation by Morocco and other countries of Western Saharan resources. Their protests also denounced the fact that they consider themselves marginalized in the labor market, and thus unable
to profit in any sense from those resources. Such a fleet is operating at excess capacity is often also a driver for illegal and unregulated fishing. We are now witnessing, (see pictures and video), the causes, the consequences and the manifestation of the depletion of fish stocks and the unsustainable and unprofitable nature of fishing in Saharawi waters, more EU fishing vessels have moved to distant fishing grounds. This plunder has further aggravated a local overfishing crisis.
During her visit to Dakhla city (Western Sahara) last year 2015, the Special Rapporteur on Food visited the port of Dakhla, where she witnessed abundant commercial and large-scale fishing projects for both national consumption and for export. The report says:¨While it is evident that considerable investment and resources are being poured into the development of the fishing sector, there is concern that not everyone working in the industry is reaping the benefits. Indeed, the Special Rapporteur learned that small-scale fisher folk are among the poorest in Western Sahara. While there have been efforts to integrate the local population by offering supplementary licences, the expert learned that Sahrawi people who are involved in the fishing industry struggle to find employment in the ports in order to sustain their livelihood.
The Association for the Monitoring of the Resources and for the Protection of the Environment in Western Sahara ( AMNPENWS) strongly condemns the discarding of such an unsustainable natural resource fish species. This clearly shows the fate of the croaker fish may foretell the progressive collapse of fish stocks in the Saharawi waters. There is no doubt that the fate of this one fish reflects a bigger picture: decades of unchecked global fishing pushed by the absence of the respect of ethics, greed, corruption, mismanagement and geopolitical discrepancies.