A third of all fishmeal that Morocco exports is shipped from occupied Western Sahara to Turkey, new WSRW calculation reveals.
Above: WSRW witnessed the arrival of fishmeal into Turkey in 2019. The picture shows the arrival of the cargo vessel Derya Aytekin on 6 November 2019, carrying a load of fishmeal from Western Sahara.
For the second year in a row, Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) presents an analysis of the large exports of valuable fishmeal from occupied Western Sahara to Turkey.
The assessment is based on WSRW's tracking of vessels between Western Sahara and Turkey, and includes all known shipments of fishmeal exported during the calendar year 2020.
A highly conservative estimate shows that in that year 49,347 tonnes of fishmeal were transported in 15 shipments to the Turkish coastal town of Güllük, aboard 13 different vessels.
This conservative figure constitutes approximately 30% of all the fishmeal that Morocco exports globally (which the Moroccan government reports as 163.698 tonnes for 2020).
Our calculations have taken into account whether the ships had called into other ports - in addition to Western Sahara - on their way to Güllük, and how the vessels' draught changed upon those stopovers.
The 2020 figures are lower than our estimation of exports to Turkey for 2019. WSRW reckons that in that year, 18 shipments had transported 74,137 tonnes to the Turkish town.
As opposed to 2019, no fishmeal exports from El Aaiún to Bremen, Germany, were documented in 2020. There were however shipments to Bremen from the port of Tan Tan in Morocco proper, close to the Western Sahara border.
According to the Moroccan government, 88,377 tonnes of fish meal were exported from “Morocco” to Turkey in 2020 - combining the figures from Morocco and from Western Sahara.
According to data from the investment research platform YCharts, the average monthly price of fishmeal globally in 2020 was 1,432 USD/tonne. If applying those figures, the value of the fishmeal exported from occupied Western Sahara to Turkey amounted to 70.7 million USD in 2020.
It should be noted that the actual price of the commodity is not known, and that the YCharts price only gives a rough idea. Our calculation of fishmeal exports to Turkey does not consider the possible transports of Western Saharan fishmeal via ports in Morocco proper.
There is a possibility that one or more cargoes were not detected by WSRW's monitoring.
Fishmeal is a product that is usually made from fish leftovers that are not suitable for human consumption. However, in Western Sahara it is believed that fish caught is directly being reduced to meal and oil for export. The fishmeal is used primarily for producing animal feed in Turkey, most importantly fishfeed for the aquaculture industry.
Under international law, the natural resources of Western Sahara can only be developed and exported if prior consent has been obtained from the people of the territory. This is not the case in the matter of the fishmeal exports.
On 6 November 2019, Western Sahara Resource Watch witnessed the arrival of the ship Derya Aytekin to the port of Güllük, fully loaded with bags of fishmeal. The fishmeal was transported by truck to the Turkish aquaculture company Gümüşdoğa A.S., which either fully or partially took in the cargo.
WSRW considers it likely that other aquaculture companies in Güllük - as well as importers in the Turkish port of Nemrut - could also be receiving fishmeal from Western Sahara by boat.
It is not known exactly which companies in Western Sahara produce the fishmeal that is being exported to Turkey. According to the Moroccan government (or download), there are a number of fishmeal or fish oil exporters in the port of El Aaiún: Copelit, Delta Ocean, KB Fish, Laayoune Elevage, Laayoune Proteine, Sepomer Sahara, Somatraps, Sotragel.
The vessels involved in the trade to Turkey in 2020 were: 15 Temmuz, Arife, Arucas, Efes, Ekmen Star, Ekmen Trans, Firdevs, Frezya S, Joy Express, Princess Nabiha, Rize, Tango Sol, and Wolf, flying under the flags of Malta, Turkey, Panama, St.Vincent & the Grenadines, Cook Islands and Antigua & Barbuda.
The fish stocks of occupied Western Sahara have not only attracted the interest of the Moroccan fleet: other foreign interests are also fishing in the occupied waters through arrangements with Moroccan counterparts. Along the Western Saharan coastline, a processing industry has emerged.
Turkey has become the leading importer of fishmeal from occupied Western Sahara. The aquaculture company Gümüşdoğa turns the meal into valuable fisheries products for the European market.
New report urges investors to engage vis-à-vis the unsustainable aquaculture industry.
WSRW has received images of equipment strapped into the hold of a ship that is en route from Bilbao to occupied Western Sahara.