More details in Iceland’s practice of fishing illegally off the coast of Western Sahara have been revealed.
As reported last year, the Icelandic fishing company Samherji has been fishing mackerel, horse mackerel and sardines in Western Saharan waters, totalling some 60,000 tonnes. Samherji director Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson, in speaking with Fréttablaðið, said that while the area is “disputed”, Iceland is not the only country fishing there.
The basis for the controversy begins with the fact that Western Sahara is a disputed area in the midst of a political and sometimes violent struggle. When the UN ordered Spain to leave the territory, both Morocco and the Polisario Front – which wants to see Western Sahara become its own country – claimed the territory for their own. The conflict between the two factions has at times been violent, and the international community has repeatedly criticised Morocco for human rights abuses in Western Sahara.
As such, it is officially classified by the United Nations as a “non-self-governing territory”, and the exploitation of its resources violates international law. In fact, the European Parliament’s Legal Service declared last year that fishing in Western Saharan waters was illegal.
“The illegal and unethical EU fishing activities in Western Sahara’s waters are nothing short of theft, and constitute implicit support for what most countries worldwide regard as an illegal occupation by Morocco in Western Sahara. Even worse, it entails that the EU’s policy works against the solving of the conflict. This cannot continue,” Portuguese MEP Miguel Portas said at the time.
DV now reports that another Icelandic company has been engaging in illegal fishing there. Called Sæblóm, the company at one time owned three ships, fishing mostly sardines and mackerel. Western Sahara Resource Watch has long pointed out that the activities of this company have been illegal. Sæblóm went bankrupt in 2010, and demands have been made on their assets totalling 470 million ISK from various parties.