Madiaye has been trapped in the port of Arrecife, in Lanzarote for six months. Along with him, ten more poor Senegalese sailors are crammed into the Gaztelugaitz, a Spanish-flagged fishing vessel that used to fish in Senegalese waters. The overexploitation of fishing off the coast of this African country, derived from the agreement with the European Union, forced seven vessels from the Basque Country to look for alternatives. The owner of the Gaztelugaitz crew saw the solution in the Canary Islands. However, hiding behind the “economic problems” suffered by this crisis, abandoned to their fate to the crew. Madiaye is a mechanic and has been unpaid for seven months. His father and mother are still waiting for their salary to be able to live. “The situation is bad because the owner cannot pay us,” he says from inside the ship.
Basque tuna boats open a conflict with the island fleet to catch tuna in the Canary Islands
“We do not understand why they have brought the Senegalese crew if they do not have permission to work in Spain,” says Gonzalo Galán, inspector in the Canary Islands of the International Transport Worker’s Federation (ITF). According to the inspector, the shipowner has been “poorly advised,” but in recent days, according to Galán, he has assured that he will pay off part of his debt. “It’s different from person to person, because we don’t all get paid the same,” says Madiaye.
The ITF has requested an inspection to determine the damage caused to the eleven sailors, who have lived in unsanitary conditions inside the Gaztelugaitz. No food, no money. Only the solidarity of some Senegalese compatriots who reside in Lanzarote and also residents of the island capital have allowed Madiaye and company to survive these months. Caritas and the Apostolate of the Sea (Archdiocesan Church dedicated to supporting people who work at sea) have also joined this support network. So far, the shipowner has not shown any signs of life, and has withheld the workers’ documentation. “We want our passports so we can go home,” says Madiaye.
In April, the Port Authority of Santa Cruz de Tenerife reported that since March 3, another of the tuna vessels that had to leave Senegal, the Aita Fraxku, docked in the Tenerife capital from Lanzarote. The General Directorate of Fisheries of the Government of the Canary Islands explained to this drafting that Senegal prohibited vessels from catching live bait because it was “overexploited.” Along these lines, the Regional Federation of Fishermen’s Guilds of the Archipelago denounced that the tuna vessel was fishing less than 100 miles from the island’s coasts. The presence of Basque ships in the Archipelago caused a strong tension among the sailors of the Archipelago, who were “threatened by the entry of competitors” and “forced to moor their boats” due to the quota of the prickly pear.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food then explained that the Aita Fraxku could continue fishing in Senegal, but “made the decision to abandon the fishing ground due to lack of profitability” and due to “operational difficulties and competition with other fleets.” A few days later, at the request of the tuna boat, the Ministry granted a special and temporary permit to catch live bait in the national fishing ground of the Canary Islands.