In a move which can be seen as a sign of changing times, a majority of the European Parliament voted against the extension of a controversial fishing agreement between the EU and Morocco last week. The agreement, which allowed EU fishing vessels unchecked access to the fishing grounds off Western Sahara, is believed to have caused large damage to marine wildlife in the area. More over, the agreement is controversial as Morocco’s presence in and governance of the Western Sahara region has long been disputed.
A large part of the fishing fleets, which operated off Western Sahara as part of the agreement, targeted shark species. Many of the landings are believed to have been destined for the shark fin trade and by-products were mostly to accomodate the Asian markets. No less than 70% of the total catches of the three Portuguese vessels active in the waters, consisted of sharks, rays and skates, all classed as threatened or endangered species.
Campaigners who have worked tirelessly to end the destructive fishing off Western Sahara and give the indiginous Saharawi people a voice on the issue, have been celebrating the news: “This is a complete victory for the Saharawi people. The parliament has refused to blindly follow the interests of the Spanish fisheries industry. We expect this to have consequences for the Parliament’s handling of future agreements with Morocco that involve the territory of Western Sahara. The UN has clearly stated that the Saharawi people has a right to be consulted on such issues”, stated Sara Eyckmans of the organisation Western Sahara Resource Watch.
Fish Elsewhere!, the campaign which is partly to be credited for the voting down of the agreement, is a coalition of NGOs and politicians from 22 EU countries which have called on the EU to respect international law, and immediately halt all fishing in the waters of occupied Western Sahara. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter