So far, the Moroccan government has issued 65 licenses to EU vessels eager to fish in Moroccan and Western Saharan waters.
From what Western Sahara Resource Watch understands, 65 issued licences have so far been distributed as follows: 56 to Spain, 1 to France, 3 to Lithuania, 2 to Latvia, 1 to the Netherlands and 2 to Portugal. Those are figures as of 18 September 2014.
A limited number of the remaining EU Member States, notable Germany, Ireland, Poland, UK and Italy, can also apply for licences in the future.
Not all of the licenced vessels have already started fishing. A small number of Spanish vessels have become active in the waters adjacent to Morocco proper over the weekend, while only one vessel, the Dutch-flagged Franziska
, was spotted off Dakhla, occupied Western Sahara.
In accordance with the agreement, licences are issued by the Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Sea Fisheries, to the Delegation of the Commission of the EU to Morocco.
There is a total of 108 fishing licences available under the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement
. No less than 90 of those licences have been earmarked for Spain. In addition, the agreement allows for an annual 80.000 tonnes under the lucrative industrial pelagic category, which is up from 60.000 tonnes annually under the previous agreement. The 80.000 tonnes are divided into smaller quotas that are accorded to different EU Member States.
Particularly the pelagic category will draw vessels to the waters of Western Sahara, as the pelagic stocks of Morocco are largely depleted. Large parts of Western Sahara, including the waters, have been illegally and brutally occupied by Morocco since 1975. Economic activities in the territory are considered in violation of international law, unless they are in accordance with the wishes and the interests of the people of Western Sahara - as stipulated by the UN Legal Office
No State in the world recognises Morocco's claim on Western Sahara, nor does the European Union - though it seems oblivious of its own stance when hard-nosed economic interests, such as fisheries, are at stake.