On 6 November 2019, Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) was witness to the arrival of the cargo vessel Derya Aytekin as it arrived at the port of Gulluk, Turkey. The vessel’s hold was entirely loaded with white bags of fishmeal from occupied Western Sahara.
A large crane loaded the meal over to waiting trucks, which WSRW followed from the port to the factory of Gümüşdoğa A.S, a 15-minute drive away. The Turkish importer operates a fishmeal factory and sea-cage farms for production of sea bass and sea bream.
A dozen workers were sitting outside of the Gümüşdoğa fish feed factory waiting for the first truck to arrive. See the entire route from the port to the factory filmed on dashboard cam to the right.
The arrival of Derya Aytekin is the fifteenth such transport from El Aaiun to Gulluk in 2019 alone, from what WSRW understands. Except an occasional delivery to Bremen, the trade to Turkey practically equals the entire export of fishmeal from the territory. Until this week, it was unknown to WSRW what happens to the meal after arrival to Turkey.
WSRW considers that the Derya Aytekin could have had a cargo of several million USDs. If taking into account the vessel's cargo capacity of approximately 6830 tonnes, that the vessel was at 6,1 meters draught (of a max draught of 6,91 meters), the vessel could quickly have contained around 5200 tonnes of fishmeal. The general market price of fishmeal at Indexmundi is around 1.500 USD/tonne. A conservative estimate of 5000 tonnes at 1000 USD/tonne, means that the transport was worth 5 million USD.
According to the European Market Observatory for fisheries and aquaculture (EUMOFA) - a market intelligence tool developed by the European Commission - Turkey was in 2017 the main supplier of sea bass and gilthead sea bream (most of which was farmed) into the EU market. Of 51.208 tonnes of European sea bass and gilthead sea bream imported to the EU in 2017, a staggering 98% originated in Turkey, a “historic high” import volume. Interestingly, Greece, which traditionally has been the Mediterranean’s largest producing country, was “bypassed in 2016-2017 by the fast-growing production in Turkey”, according to EUMOFA.
Gümüşdoğa is said to produce 27.000 tonnes of sea bream and sea bass annually, in 14 sea-cage fish farms. Gümüşdoğa also produces 12.000 tonnes of rainbow trouts from 22 fish farms. It is one of Turkey’s largest producers and suppliers of these species, exported to Europe in fresh or frozen form.
In addition to the one in Gulluk, the Turkish importer also has fish feed plants in Milas and Keba.
Gümüşdoğa’s trade to Europe seems to be represented by Dalga, an Athens-based trading company. Dalga is claiming to export to 400 locations in 20 European countries. Its clients are wholesalers and supermarkets.
Western Sahara Resource Watch wrote to Gümüşdoğa asking the company to terminate its imports from occupied Western Sahara. WSRW also wrote to Dalga, asking them to request their Turkish partner to halt the trade.
WSRW expects that other Turkish ports are used to offload fishmeal from Western Sahara; namely Ambarli, Nemrut, Istanbul, Izmit, Colkuk and Eregli. WSRW only knows of one other country that receives fishmeal from Western Sahara: Germany. See previous stories regarding the imports to Bremen.
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Morocco has developed a large fishmeal and fish oil industry in Western Sahara for international aquaculture companies. The trade is employing Moroccan settlers in the occupied territory, and contributes to financially support and politically legitimize Morocco's military occupation. The Turkish imports is directly funding the occupation.
It is not clear which fishmeal factory in El Aaiun, Western Sahara, is behind the shipment. It is known that the meal producer Copelit has exported previously to Gulluk.
The vessel Derya Aytekin is Panama flagged, and with IMO 9136864, operated by the small Turkish shipping company Efemey Shipping.
Pictures below are taken by WSRW and can be used freely. No credit needed. Click on picture for high-resolution popup version.
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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.
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 five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.