The shark population in occupied Western Saharan waters is under threat by Moroccan and European fishing. That is one of the many disturbing conclusions of the independent post-evaluation report on the EU's fish deal with Morocco.
Through targeting sharks, rays and skates, European vessels fishing in Western Saharan waters have adopted the same exploitation strategy as the Moroccan vessels, says the evaluation report from Océanic Developpement - an independent consultancy firm hired by the European Commission to review the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA).
The Moroccan fleet has long-time held a special interest for sharks. Up to 4.000 tonnes are landed each year to accommodate the demands for shark of the Asian markets. Particularly the deep sea species are targeted, as their large liver makes them interesting for the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry. Deplorably, the EU fleet is not lagging behind. No less than 70% of the total catches of the three Portuguese vessels active in Saharawi waters, consists of sharks, rays and skates. That's well above 450 tonnes of endangered species. This is said to be the findings of the independent study written for the European Commission. The report mentions that one single Spanish vessel fished about 60 tonnes of sharks and rays, equalling 30% of its total catches.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers sharks, rays and skates to be in danger of extinction. These species are highly vulnerable in terms of reproduction, and are as a consequence in danger of extermination when exposed to over-fishing. And that is precisely the case in Western Sahara: the EU's evaluation study concluded that the fish stocks of both Moroccan and Saharawi waters are either fully exploited or over-exploited.
In order to protect sharks and rays, an International Plan of Action for Conservation and Management of Sharks was adopted by the FAO in 1999. The catches of sharks, rays and skates by European vessels are furthermore in violation of the EU’s Action Plan on Sharks, adopted in 2009. That same year, the Moroccan government issued a set of guidelines to reduce the fishing impact on sharks, but the evaluation report found no information as to whether and how these measures have been implemented.
Since sharks, rays and skates are already in danger of extinction, continued fishing will have detrimental effects on all ongoing attempts of conservation. Three out of ten sharks captured by the EU fleet are of types that are considered 'vulnerable' by the IUCN, meaning that their population has already been reduced by 80%.
Photo above: Thornback ray, red-flagged for extinction by IUCN.
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 three different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
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.