Scottish fishing sector favours illegal fisheries in occupied waters
Leading figures from the Scottish fishing sector pled for the continuation of the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement, at a conference hosted by Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson last Thursday in Gibraltar.
Struan Stevenson, Scottish conservative MEP, is convinced that the much criticised EU-Morocco fish pact should be extended. “If the EU walks away from this critical deal, Russia, China or Korea would be sure to step in. In such circumstances, conservation efforts and jobs would disappear. Also, more than 100 Spanish trawlers would be displaced back into EU waters, where most fish stocks are already fully exploited”.
Yet an independent evaluation study issued by a consultancy firm at the request of the European Commission, shows that all stocks in Morocco and Western Sahara are already fully exploited. As a consequence, continued EU fishing could severely harm the region’s fish stocks, the evaluation reads.
The report also concluded that the European Union's controversial fisheries agreement with Morocco is the least cost-effective of all the EU's existing fishing deals with third countries. Every euro invested under the agreement generated just €0.65 in added value.
Not only has the agreement been costing the EU millions of Euros and has it contributed to depleting the fish stocks in both Morocco and Western Sahara, it is also considered in violation of international law by UN and EU lawyers. In 2002, the UN issued a legal opinion stipulating that economic activities in Western Sahara could only be lawful if they’d take into account the wishes and interests of the people of the territory. For failing in both aspects, the European Parliament’s lawyers in July 2009 labelled the fish agreement with Morocco to be violation of international law.
But these elements were not discussed at the Gibraltar conference. Instead, the floor was given to Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association (SPFA), and George Nicol, owner of the Scottish boat “Krossfjord” that has been fishing occupied Western Sahara’s waters for years. Nicol also owns a processing plant in Dakhla, all the way in the south of Africa’s last colony.
Ian Gatt was quoted saying: “Scottish fishing operations have provided a huge number of jobs in the Western Sahara area and should be rewarded for this initiative.” He added that the UK has had a “positive effect in the Western Saharan territory.”
People from the territory, the Saharawi, living either under the yoke of Moroccan occupation or in forgotten refugee camps in the inhospitable Algerian desert, were not invited to explain how their lives have been affected by the EU’s fish deal with the regime occupying their homeland.
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.
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