Turkey: biggest funder of occupation of Western Sahara
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The value of the fishmeal exports from occupied Western Sahara to Turkey in 2019 may have been larger than the entire phosphate trade from the occupied territory.
Published: 26.06 - 2020 12:55Printer version    
Over 100 million USD. That is the approximate value of the fishmeal exported from Moroccan companies in occupied Western Sahara into Turkey for the calendar year 2019. The number is based on Western Sahara Resource Watch's tracking of vessels between Western Sahara and Turkey. It is the first time that WSRW presents an estimation of the massive volume of fishmeal exports to the Meditteranean nation.

To compare: in 2019, the global imports of phosphate rock from Western Sahara amounted to around 90 million USD, according to WSRW's report P for Plunder 2020. The conflict mineral has traditionally been regarded as Morocco's most valuable export commodity from the territory that it holds under occupation. In 2019, it was probably not.

Fishmeal is normally a product made from fish leftovers that are not available for human consumption. However in Western Sahara it is believed that fish caught is sent directly to be reduced to meal and oil for exports. The fishmeal is used primarily for animal feed in Turkey, most importantly fishfeed for aquaculture industry.

Our investigations reveal a total of 18 shipments from the occupied territory into Güllük, on 10 different vessels, during the course of last year. WSRW estimates the total amount of fishmeal exported to Güllük to be 74,137 tonnes. Our calculations have taken into account whether the ships had called into other ports - in addition to Western Sahara - on their way to Güllük, and how the vessels' draught changed upon those stopovers.

When considering the prices of fishmeal registered at Index Mundi, at 1,439 USD/tonne, the total value would amount to over 106 million USD.

It should be noted that the actual price is not known, and that the prices registered at Index Mundi only give a rough idea of the actual price. Our calculation of fishmeal exports to Turkey does not consider the possible transports of Western Saharan fishmeal via the port of Agadir, in Morocco proper.

Under international law, the natural resources of Western Sahara can only be developed and exported if prior consent has been obtained from the people of the territory. This is not the case in the matter of the fishmeal exports.

Yet another transport is currently taking place this week. The Panama-flagged carrier Joy Express (IMO number 9378254) departed El Aaiún harbour on 25 June in the evening, in direction Güllük.

On 6 November 2019, Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) witnessed the arrival of the ship Derya Aytekin to the port of Güllük, fully loaded with bags of fishmeal. The fishmeal was transported by truck to the Turkish aquaculture company Gümüşdoğa A.S., which either fully or partially took in the cargo.

WSRW considers it likely that other aquaculture companies in Güllük - as well as importers in the Turkish ports of Ambarli, Nemrut, Izmit, Colkuk, Eregli - could also be receiving fishmeal from Western Sahara. The 18 transports for 2019 picked up either their entire cargo or part thereof in Western Sahara. A handful of the vessels picked up some cargo in Nouadhibou in Mauritania, and in ports in Morocco.

It is not known exactly which companies in Western Sahara produce the fishmeal that is being exported to Turkey.  According to the Moroccan government (or download), there are a number of fishmeal or fish oil exporters in the port of El Aaiún: Copelit, Delta Ocean, KB Fish, Laayoune Elevage, Laayoune Proteine, Sepomer Sahara, Somatraps, Sotragel.

Official Moroccan foreign trade figures estimate that 156,000 tonnes of fishmeal were exported from "Morocco" for the year 2019. Out of this amount, 90,411 tonnes, or 58%, ended up in Turkey, according to the same source. Considering WSRW's estimations that the Turkish imports of Saharawi fishmeal for 2019 was around 74,137 tonnes, it would mean that Turkey receives near all its 'Moroccan' fishmeal from the occupied territory.

The vessels involved in the trade to Turkey last year were: Arife, Derya Aytekin, Efes, Ekmen Trans, Leader Canakkale, Onat, Team Spirit, Teos, Toto BR and Joy Express (ex-Unitrader), flying Panama, Turkey and Italy flags.  WSRW observed the following number of monthly departures: 1 in January, 2 in March, 1 in April, 3 in May, 1 in June, 3 in July, 2 in August, 1 in September, 1 in October, 2 in November, 1 in December.

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Download the overview here (pdf).


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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.
EU Court cases on Western Sahara for dummies

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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 five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
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