- The Spanish company Grupo Calvo has decided to close its canning plant in El Aaiun, the capital of Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, next year, following pressure from pro-Saharawi activists.
Calvo, a company based in La Coruña in Spain's north-western Galicia region, is among the largest canneries in the country and the world's fifth largest producer. It specialises on canned fish and seafood, mainly targeting the large Spanish and Latin American markets.
Javier Lacoz, CEO of Grupo Calvo, this week made the announcement that, despite a good result for the company, it was to lay down its controversial cannery in the port of El Aaiun. Calvo, which has factories in El Salvador, Brazil and Galicia, had decided not to renew the lease of its plant in Western Sahara in 2009.
"We want to be more efficient," said the director general of the company, before explaining that the two plants in Galicia would increase their production to replace the one in El Aaiun. Calvo's cannery in Western Sahara has an annual production capacity of 14,400 tonnes, mainly canning sardines, mackerel and tuna. The 7,000 square meter plant currently employs around 400 workers, mostly Moroccans, and runs at a 24-hour basis.
In May this year, the international organisation Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) started a campaign with the aim of making Calvo cease all its activities in Western Sahara and contacted the company through its Human Resources director, Emilio Marcos. He confirmed that Calvo was closing its facilities in Western Sahara and that they would not cede exploitation rights to other companies.
For his part WSRW has applauded the decision by Calvo to close its facilities in El Aaiun, but has informed the company that "we continue insisting Calvo must cease all its activities related to natural resources Sahraoui."
The pressure against Calvo was mounting because the company was exploiting fishery resources off the coast of occupied Western Sahara, which WSRW, based on a UN legal opinion, holds is contrary to international law. The exploitation of natural resources in an occupied or colonised territory without the consent of the indigenous population is seen as illegal.
According to WSRW, Calvo has been "operating illegally in Western Sahara, exploiting Saharawi fisheries banks." The organisation deplored the "ethical standards" of the Spanish company, especially regretting it was "declaring in its product information that it was of Moroccan origin," reminding Calvo that no country or institution had recognised Western Sahara as part of Morocco.
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