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In a previously covered-up legal opinion, the European Parliament’s Legal Service has declared current fishing by European vessels in Western Sahara’s waters to be illegal under international law.
Last 23 of February...Under the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement, the EU pays the Moroccan government in excess of €40 million annually for access to the fisheries off the coast of Morocco. But the fishing licences are conveniently silent on their area of application, and are knowingly used by EU vessels to steal fish from the waters off the coast of Western Sahara. This is despite the fact that not one country in the world recognises Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, and the requirement under international law that any use of Western Sahara’s natural resources must be for the benefit of the Saharawi people and in accordance with their wishes. Continued EU fishing in Western Sahara’s waters under an arrangement with Morocco is therefore tantamount to political support for Morocco’s thirty-year-long illegal occupation of Western Sahara.
On 23 February 2010, a new legal opinion by the European Parliament’s Legal Service will be discussed in the Parliament’s Fisheries Committee. The opinion – covered up since July 2009 – demands that the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement be suspended or amended immediately to ensure that “EU-flagged vessels are excluded from the exploitation of the waters of Western Sahara”. The opinion was drafted in response to a request from the Parliament following the declaration by the Western Saharan leadership of a 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone to exert ownership over Western Sahara’s offshore natural resources (including fisheries and offshore oil and gas), in accordance with international law.
On 30 December 2009, 25 Saharawi civil society organisations wrote to the European Commission confirming that the Saharawi people have never been consulted in relation to the EU fisheries in Western Sahara’s waters. The Frente POLISARIO, the Saharawi political leadership and liberation movement, has made this point publicly on numerous occasions, including in letters to the UN Security Council.
Western Sahara Resource Watch demands the immediate cessation of all EU fisheries in the waters of occupied Western Sahara. See more about the unethical EU fisheries on the WSRW’s campaign homepage www.fishelsewhere.eu, where 529 organisations have joined the appeal to the European Commission to halt the illegal plunder.
Font: Sara Eyckmans
International coordinator, Western Sahara Resource Watch
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