The large Russian trawl fleet that normally zig-zags the waters off occupied Western Sahara at this time of year is nowhere to be found.
In a normal year, the Russian fleet would start its controversial and illegal fisheries offshore the territory Western Sahara by the end of July, under an agreement with Morocco which occupies the territory.
This year, however, the calendar has reached the month of October, and the Russian trawl fleet has still not arrived the occupied waters for start of the autumn fishing season. The vessels that normally take part in the Russian fisheries have moved to Mauritanian waters, the Pacific Ocean or remain docked in Spain.
Four vessels are at this very moment at the docks of Arinaga and Las Palmas on the Canary Islands. The picture above shows two of the vessels Vasily Lozovskiy and Kapitan Bogomolov, shot today, 12 October 2020.
Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) is not yet aware of why the Russians are absent but expects that a new agreement might not at all have been landed between Moscow and Rabat. The two parties may have not been able to renew its previous fisheries agreement.
In May 2020, WSRW reported that a new fisheries agreement between the Russiand and Moroccan governments was forthcoming, and that high-level delegations had met to discuss online a new partnership on 9 May. After that, no news have been published about the matter on the websites of the Russian government, the Russian fisheries institute, nor in international media nor on the Facebook page of the Russian embassy in Rabat. WSRW considers it is thus likely that the fisheries season has started without the conclusion of a new fisheries deal.
As late as in April 2020, more than one year after the talks between the two parties started, Russia and Morocco were still not able to agree on the size of the quotas and financial compensation.
Morocco is illegally occupying the territory of Western Sahara, but still offers international agreements to foreign governments to fish in Western Sahara’s waters. The Russians have had several consecutive agreements with Morocco, and the autumn fish season would normally start with the arrival of the Russian fleet during the last days of July each year. Even though the agreements have been with Morocco, all the fisheries activities have taken place solely in Western Sahara waters, in violation of international law. WSRW wrote in March 2020 that most of the Russian catches were exported on reefer vessels to markets in Western African countries.
The fleet of large Russian trawlers which normally operates in Western Sahara is now located everywhere:
In Mauritanian waters: Nikolay Telenkov (IMO number 8607139), Atlas (IMO number 8802997), Armenak Babaev (IMO number 8859940), Stary Arbat (IMO number IMO 8721064). Some of them have undertaken fisheries in what is clearly maritime waters of Western Sahara, even without an agreement with Morocco, in the area between Bir Ganduz and Cabo Blanco.
Docked on Canary Islands, Spain: Aleksandr Mironenko (IMO 8607177), Zakhar Sorokin (IMO 8607256), Vasiliy Lozovskiy (IMO 8607323), Kapitan Bogomolov (IMO 8607402)
In Russian-Pacific waters: Pavel Kutakhov (IMO 8607282)
In South Korean waters: Aleksandr Kosarev (IMO number 8607153
In Chilean waters: Admiral Shabalin (IMO 8607165)
Through the deal, Russian trawlers will fish exclusively in the waters off occupied Western Sahara.
Russian and Moroccan representatives recently met to further discuss a new fisheries agreement covering the waters offshore occupied Western Sahara, but a new deal seems still pending.