Western Sahara Resource Watch has discovered that at least two Russian vessels this autumn have been fishing in the waters offshore Western Sahara. The map above shows the movements of the fishing vessel Zarakhar Sorokin (IMO number 68607256), fishing in Western Sahara in the period August and September this year. Also the vessel Maksim Starostin (IMO number 8607232) has been fishing in Western Sahara waters in 2010. Both two vessels transferred their fish cargo over to Russian transport vessels outside of city of Dakhla in end of August.
However, there is a catch to the fishery. The Russian Government has no agreement to fish in the waters off the territory.
The Russian Government on 3 June 2010 signed a fisheries agreement with Morocco for the Economic Exclusive Zone of Morocco. However, Morocco’s EEZ does not extend to Western Sahara. The Moroccan government has not even laid claim to the EEZ of these waters. It would not even be able to do so under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, of which it became a member state in 2007.
Western Sahara Resource Watch has made an unofficial English translation of what is a close-to-final draft of the agreement between the Russian and Moroccan governments, published by the Russian government shortly before signing the agreement with Rabat. Download the WSRW translation here.
The agreement In January 2010, the Russian government published on its homepages the text below:
Order of January 15, 2010 № 5-p On the signing of the Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco on Cooperation in the field of marine fisheries In accordance with paragraph 1 of Article 11 of the Federal Law "On international treaties of the Russian Federation" to approve the submitted Fisheries Agency of Russia (Rosrybolovstva) agreed with the Foreign Ministry of Russia and other interested federal executive bodies and pre-researched on the Moroccan side a draft agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco on Cooperation in the field Marine Fisheries (attached). Instruct Fisheries Agency of Russia hold talks with the Moroccan side, and on reaching an agreement to sign on behalf of the Government of the Russian Federation said Agreement, is authorized to make changes in the attached draft, without a fundamental nature. Prime Russian Federation V. Putin
What must then be considered a close-to-finished version of the agreement was published on the homepages. Download that draft agreement (in Russian) here.
See further news clips from Russian media on the agreement (very rough translation)Clear geography Article 1 of the agreement states specifically that fishing is to take place “in the Atlantic part of the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Kingdom of Morocco”.
It also makes reference to the fact that “The Kingdom of Morocco established 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone within the limits of which it executes sovereign rights when it comes to research, use, preservation, and resource management of the aforementioned zone”.
However, Morocco has never laid such claim on the waters offshore the territory of Western Sahara, which it occupied in 1975 in violation of international law. Few weeks before the invasion, the International court of justice concluded Morocco had no sovereignty over Western Sahara. Only the Saharawi Arabic Democratic Republic, with a territory mostly occupied by Morocco, and a member of the African Union, has ever asserted a claim to these waters.
Appendix 1, paragraph 1, of the agreement states that the Russian fisheries will take place south of 28 degrees North.
This means, logically, one of 2 alternatives: 1) Either the fisheries are taking place in Morocco's EEZ in window of 37 kilometers between 28 degrees north and 27 degrees 40 minutes north, in which Morocco is sovereign power, and to which it has laid EEZ claims. 2) The fisheries are taking place south of Morocco’s proper EEZ (which itself only extends south as far as the Morocco-Western Sahara frontier at 27 degrees 40 minutes North latitude) meaning the Russian vessels are currently fishing in a territory which is not covered by the agreements which the Moroccan and Russian governments have signed.
Both Dakhla and El Aaiun, both cities in Western Sahara, are mentioned as ports in which Moroccan authorities can inspect the Russian vessels. No reference is made to fishing being allowed in the waters seaward of the territory. 12 vessels are allowed to fish under the agreement, which is valid for 3 years.
WSRW protested WSRW has on two occasions sent letters to the President Medvedev urging the Government of Russia to immediately halt further Russian fisheries in Western Sahara, and clearly exclude the territory of Western Sahara from future fisheries agreements. The letters have not been replied to.
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