Controversial Morocco fishing agreement voted down

Monday 19 December, 2011, 13:09, by The Black Fish

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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 majority of members in the European Parliament voted down the proposed extension

A majority of members in the European Parliament voted down the proposed extension

Photo by EU Parliament

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

European Parliament rejects EU fisheries

Extract from article by Fish Elsewhere!

The EU fisheries in Western Sahara have today been voted down in the European Parliament. Reports made for the European Commission have shown that the EU fisheries in Western Sahara are a complete waste of EU taxpayers’ money and contribute to destruction of marine life offshore Western Sahara. The EU fleet must now return home.

The parliament voted over whether to accept the one year extension of the EU fisheries in Western Sahara. The agreement entered into between the EU and Western Sahara's occupying power Morocco. The extension was approved by a tiny minority in the Council of Ministers in June, as the former 2007-2011 agreement expired in March.

In November, both the parliament’s Budget Committee and the Development Committee recommended that the fisheries be stopped. In the Fisheries Committee, the rapporteur Carl Haglund from Finland also recommended a rejection. However, a small minority of the fisheries committee managed to change the conclusion of the Haglund report so it appeared in favour instead of rejecting the agreement.

The vote today, was over whether to approve or reject the changed and nonsensical Haglund report which had been amended to accept the controversial fisheries. 296 parliamentarians, mostly following the Spanish fishing interests, voted in favour of the Haglund report. 58 abstained. The result was that 326 voted against the report, thus demanding the fisheries to stop.

Further reading: Sharks in danger of extinction in Western Sahara | 'Disgraceful agreement', Swedish legal expert labels EU fisheries | Rare victory for Western Sahara | Spain To Demand Damages From EU for Scrapping Morocco Fishing Deal | Morocco bans EU fishing vessels amid Western Sahara row | Here are the vessels that violated international law