Dutch first to fish under unethical EU-Morocco fish deal

For the first time in almost three years, an EU member state fishing vessel has been detected in the waters of occupied Western Sahara.
Published: 16.09 - 2014 18:25Printer version    
The m.v. Franziska , a 6,900 tonne capacity stern trawler, has been spotted fishing southwest off Dakhla since last weekend. The vessel is owned and operated by the Dutch company W. van der Zwan & Zn B.V., which in turn is part of the Pelagic Freezer-trawler Association (PFA).

The Franziska is the first EU flagged vessel in almost three years to fish in the waters off Western Sahara, a territory that is largely occupied by Morocco since 1975. Morocco's self-proclaimed sovereignty over Western Sahara has not been recognised by any government in the world, and the UN Security Counsel's Legal Counsel has declared that the territory's natural endownments cannot be exploited without consent of and benefit to the Saharawi people.

It is not the first time that a vessel owned by W. van der Zwan is active in the occupied Western Sahara. When confronted by WSRW's Dutch members on the matter in 2010, PFA replied, relinquishing any responsibility onto the European Commission.

In December 2011, the European Parliament rejected a proposed prolongation of the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement, following reports on its damaging ecological impact, financial loss to the Union and concerns over its compatibility with international law for failing to exclude Western Sahara from its scope. Accordingly, EU fishing in Morocco and Western Sahara ceased.

But a new agreement - reviewing EU borne expenses of the deal yet failing to address the ecological and legal obstacles - was aproved by the European Parliament in December 2013. The king of Morocco ratified the agreement in July this year.  

Several Spanish vessels have this weekend passed Morocco's technical vetting process, allowing them to resume fishing. Spain has been the main driving force behind the new agreement, receiving the lion's share of the fishing licences accorded under the deal.

The Saharawi people, ironically once regarded as Spanish citizens during Spain's colonisation of their land, were never consulted on the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement, and have consistently voiced their opposition to the deal. Several Saharawis were injured by Moroccan police as they protested against the European Parliament's decision to approve the fisheries protocol for their occupied waters.


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Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
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It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the three different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Stand up for the Gdeim Izik 25!


Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
Support Western Sahara Resource Watch


Help us to protect the natural resources of Western Sahara for the Saharawi people. Support our work by making a donation.
Report: Moroccan green energy used for plunder


At COP22, beware of what you read about Morocco’s renewable energy efforts. An increasing part of the projects take place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and is used for mineral plunder, new WSRW report documents.

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