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Exporting Exploitation

How retired EU fishing vessels are devastating West African fish stocks and undermining the rights of local people

Publication - December 2, 2013
Sweden has operated a system of individual transferable quotas (ITQs) for its pelagic fleet since 2009, to reduce its fishing capacity by allowing fishermen to sell out and retire from unprofitable fishing operations. Since the introduction of the system the number of vessels and the capacity of the fleet (measured in both total engine power and gross tonnage) has decreased. However, many of the vessels that have left the fleet were not actually decommissioned, but were sold and moved to other countries and other fisheries, including the waters of occupied Western Sahara.


This report shows that Swedish and other EU fishermen are profiting by exploiting the resources in the occupied territory of Western Sahara, by shifting their businesses from Sweden to Africa, despite the fact that the Swedish government is opposing any EU fishing off the coast of Western Sahara because of concern that it infringes the rights and interests of local communities.

Greenpeace therefore demands that EU Member States:

  • remove excess fishing capacity by scrapping or converting to non-fishing purposes those vessels that have the biggest impact in terms of overfishing and the destruction of marine habitats;

  •  allocate access to fishing opportunities in a way that rewards fishermen who minimise the environmental impacts of fishing and that maximises the socio-economic benefits for local communities; and 

  • prevent the transfer of excess fishing capacity to other regions.

Greenpeace further demands that the EU stop exploiting the fishing grounds off the coast of Western Sahara and Morocco, unless and until it can ensure that fish stocks are managed in a sustainable manner and that the fishery takes into account the wishes and benefits of the people of the territory.

Exporting exploitation: How retired EU fishing vessels are devastating West African fish stocks and undermining the rights of local people

Exporting overcapacity to Western Sahara_online version FINAL