Yesterday morning, 41 unemployed Saharawi fishermen took to the harbour of Dakhla, demanding to know why only fishermen from Agadir are employed on Russian vessels fishing in Saharan waters. The incident occurred when two Russian vessels – crewed exclusively by non-locals – had entered the local harbour.
On 14 July, two Russian vessels arrived at the harbour of Dakhla. One of them was the Zakhar Sorokin (IMO 68607256), a refrigerated fish carrier pertaining to the Murmansk Trawl Fleet. The name of the other vessel is unknown.
Both vessels however, had an exclusively Moroccan crew on board, said a group of Saharawi fishermen from Dakhla to Western Sahara Resource Watch.
“The Russian vessels pick up fishermen in Agadir, and then come to fish in Saharawi waters. Why don’t they give local fishermen work on those vessels? We are all unemployed”, said one of the fishermen.
Two days later, on Saturday 16 July, 41 disgruntled Saharawi fishermen gathered in front of the local delegation of the Moroccan Fisheries Ministry, demanding to know why fishermen from Agadir were receiving a preferential treatment.
See photos of the protest at the bottom of this article.
From what Western Sahara Resource Watch has been told, present civil servants closed the office and called the police, which arrived on the scene momentarily. They were joined by a representative of the local authorities of Dakhla, who tried to negotiate a settlement with the fishermen. The offer of 50% of all available jobs on the Russians vessels was turned down by the Saharawi fishermen.
“Why would we accept that half our work places go to people not from here? At least 80% of the jobs available for locals on foreign vessels fishing in Saharan waters should go to Saharawi from the region, not to anyone else”, said the unemployed fisherman. “Some of these larger long-liner vessels employ more than 50 Moroccans and not one single Saharawi. This is unjustifiable”.
The fisheries agreement between Morocco and the Russian Federation was signed in June 2010. This year’s fishing quotas available under the agreement were settled only some few weeks ago, allow 10 Russian industrial fishing vessels to catch 100.000 tonnes of fish for 2011. WSRW has learnt that the 100.000 tonnes are split into 10 parts, allowing each vessels to catch 10.000 tonnes. Murmansk Trawl Fleet is believed to have 5 of the 10 vessels under the agreement.
The picture below shows the demonstrators in front of the local delegation of the Moroccan Ministry for Fisheries in Dakhla
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.
Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
At COP22, beware of what you read about Morocco’s renewable energy efforts. An increasing part of the projects take place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and is used for mineral plunder, new WSRW report documents.
Big oil’s interest in occupied Western Sahara has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. Some companies are now drilling, in complete disregard of international law and the Saharawi people’s rights. Here’s what you need to know.