According to Moroccan newspaper Lakome, the protest is a direct result of the fishermen's dire working conditions, and the discrepancies in salaries.
But the fishermen themselves have commented to Western Sahara Resource Watch that the protest was just as much about unsustainable fishing practices as it was about the socio-economic discrimination they face compared to their Moroccan counterparts.
By cutting off the main entry road to the port, the fishermen specifically targeted a number of trucks that were about to transport sardines to the city of El Aaiun, thereby preventing them from leaving the harbour. One of the larger trucks fell over towards the end of the protest. (See photos below).
The protesters claim that vessels that are equipped with a refrigerated sea water system (RSW), which are abundantly present in the Dakhla ocean area, are landing far more catches than they are authorised to. More than half of those catches are subsequently transported to fish meal factories in El Aaiun, they say.
In a statement received by WSRW, the fishermen associations declare that they will consider indefinitely blocking the sardine transport to El Aaiun, until their demands have been met. The Saharawi people should benefit from the wealth harboured in the fishing zones off Western Sahara, they write. "A wealth that is being depleted by Morocco while Saharawi live in extreme poverty from Assa to Dakhla", the statement concludes.
The protest quickly triggered an intervention by the Moroccan armed forces, stationed in the area.
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.
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.
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