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How illegal fishing is still damaging Somalia

Protecting and halting the rampant IUU fishing is every one’s interest. Living marine resources are limited. Current practice of continuously poaching, deliberate and indiscriminate IUU fishing impacts regional economies.

TSIM Reporter

The plunge and varnishing of the statehood of Somalia Government in the early 1990s and the subsequent devastating civil war put Soma­lia at the crossroad of insecurity, piracy, illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing. The IUU fishing activities along the Somali waters heightened after the disintegration of the Horn of Africa country into clan-controlled fiefdoms following the overthrow of Siad Barre almost a couple of decades ago.

There has not been single particular political entity that controlled Somali waters; each coastal region had self-pro­moted militia, led by a faction leader, which controlled its own area, with some entering into controversial fishing vessel licensing arrangements with foreign countries.

Illicit offshore fishing activities are on active mode. Fish­ing fleets are either unlicensed, operate under licenses of dubious legality or fly under flag of convenience.

The state of IUU fishing in Somali waters surprised of both Somalis and international community alike.

It is impossible to monitor their fishery production, in general, let alone the state of the fishery resources they are exploiting. There is also a strong suspicion of illegal dump­ing of industrial and nuclear wastes along the Somali Coast.

Despite Somalia marine resources faced bleak reality. There are foreseeable improvements since Federal Gov­ernment of Somalia made major political improvements.

There are still political differences with self-proclaimed So­maliland and the rest Somalia.

IUU fishing includes a wide range of illicit activities: fish­ing without permission or out of season; harvesting pro­hibited species; using outlawed types of fishing gear; disre­garding catch quotas; or non-reporting or underreporting catch weights. In the sustainable fisheries context, IUU fishing is of seri­ous and increasing concern. IUU fishing undermines efforts to conserve and manage fishery stocks in capture fisheries.

Dr. Musse Gaboge, Director at Somali Marine Academy, states that: “a sustained IUU fishing has negative impacts on both short and long-term environment and socio-econ­omy of the coastal societies”. An analysis indicates that an average of 850 foreign owned vessels engage in unlicensed fishing in Somali wa­ters per year. Studies also indicate the value of illegal foreign fishing revenue losses exceed over 94 million per annum.

IUU fishing activities in the Indian Ocean region have been aided by Kenya and Yemen. Distance fishing nations including Koreans, Italians, Taiwanese, Spanish, Thailand and Chinese fishing companies targeted West Indian fish­ery resources. The lack of competent central government in Somalia has offered a kind of free for all for fishing.

The IUU fishing vessels in Somalia have also a clear link in illicit activities such as people smuggling and smuggling of drugs, arms and contraband. There are legitimate moral ethos and legal concerns that these vessels from almost all over of the world use a wide range of internationally banned techniques and equipment. Taking advantage of a lack of patrolling securities, the foreign owned vessels us­ing internationally prohibited fishing techniques like dyna­mites, destroying the coral reefs and coral habitats.

According to civil societies, which monitor the country’s marine environment, the illegal fishing vessels stay away into deeper waters during the days but come closer to the shore at night.

They apply destructive fishing techniques, which reduce the local population’s harvest and damage nets and traps set by local fishermen.

Over the years, there were complaints from fishermen reporting that their fishing nets either have been taken away or destroyed. Some of these vessels are equipped with both large purse seines and big trawlers and quickly process while others freeze nearly all their catches.

The magnitude of environmental damage is huge as they drag rollers and chains on the seabed destroying im­mature and non-target species and benthic ecosystem. They target huge aggregations of fish. In most cases, fish aggregate either when they are spawning, when the fish population is migrating or when they highly vulnerable to the physical impacts of the environment.

A sustained IUU fishing has negative impacts on both short and long-term environmental and socio-economy of the coastal societies”.

– Dr. Musse Gabobe, Director at Somali Marine Academ

The trawling activity is thought to result in a physical dis­persion of eggs and milt leading to a higher fertilization fail­ure. Physical and chemical damage to larvae cause by the trawling action may also reduce their chances of survival. Most of these fishing vessels came from the most de­veloped or developing countries whose fisheries resources were either overexploited or are under tight fishery regu­lations.

They utilize technically sound sophisticated factory-fish­ing vessels, which were modelled for distant-water fishing. Their greed is propelled by self-interest and they do not consider the ecological implications. Somalia does not only experience political displacement but also resource displacement. The findings indicate that these distant-water fishing vessels include of those sailing under flags of conveniences such as China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Honduras, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Pakistan, Portugal, Sau­di Arabia, Russia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Yemen. These vessels are in search of Dolphin fish, Group­er, Emperors, Tuna sp., Mackerel sp., Snapper, Swordfish, Shark sp. Herring and of course, other valuable in Somali coastal water species.

IUU fishing undermines Somali fisheries manage­ment and represents major threat to fisheries devel­opment initiatives. IUU fishing is one of the complex economic systems at work in Somalia, which gener­ate a very substantial amount of revenue for various politicians and businessmen.

They sustain and maintain their respective posi­tions of power through the purchase of arms and military material for their militias. Several illicit agents facilitate dubious licensing regimes. Multi-nation­al fishing fleets are endorsed to operate in Somali coastal waters.

Commercial exploitation of Somali fisheries and the granting of permits to foreign fishing organiza­tions and individuals are a lucrative income-gener­ating activity. The fishing permits can cost as much as US$150,000 per boat. The permits are issued in complete disregard for any international regulations or long-term sustainability of the fisheries, resulting in indiscriminate fishing and severe long-term degra­dation of the Somali fishery.

These agents and intermediaries are generally based in Dubai, Kenya, Yemen or South East Asian countries. They involve in acquisition of fishing per­mits and exploitation rights for sea bed resources. Flag of Convenience (FoC) has also encouraged IUU fishing activities in Somali waters. Shockingly, most of the companies are registered in the regional neighboring countries.

Unabated illegal fishing and the fear of foreign fishing fleets has developed. Most of Somali intellec­tuals were aware while the unfortunate civil war was taking place, the multi-national fishing companies targeting Somali waters because of its rich aquatic marine resources. The root cause of the piracy in the region can be related with the illegal fishing in Somali waters and the easy access of modern weaponry.

As Dr. Abdirahman Kulmiye (2004) articulated in his article, the rise of the illegal fishing is the root cause to blame the whole problem. These scenarios developed recently as there was not a single hijack­ing incident reported in Somalia before illegal fishing started in the region.

It is unfortunate that on numerous occasions, commercial cargo ships have been targeted and suffered both loss of lives and property. It is believed that piracy and hostage taking to have links with people beyond the gunmen.

On a number of occasions, civil societies, regional states and the Federal Government of Somalia noted the serious and dangerous phenomenon that is de­veloping in Somali waters and threat to all maritime transportation gateways from the Red Sea to the Southern tip of the Indian Ocean.

A critical question for the regional governments and civil society organizations is whether their ‘home’ governments are able to monitor and police their fishing grounds and whether there are suitable frame work in place to work together to ensure ille­gal fishing is completely defeated. IUU Fishing is a national security concern, due to the prolonged civil unrest, Somalia has been facing tremendous security problems

At the present, due to the rampant IUU fishing, it bears one of the greatest economic losses largely from the most developing nations. Because of insecurity, Horn of Africa and West African are the most vulnera­ble waters to IUU fishing.

They are targeted because of their productive eco­systems. Lack of properly security infrastructures po­licing these territorial waters is really very challenging. This has encouraged illicit IUU fishing exploitations.

IUU fishing is a phenomenon with many damaging economic, social, environmental and security impacts, a reality that leads both regional and international community to cooperate and work together getting a solution to this serious threat to the limited fishery re­sources. This IUU war can only be effective if the very international community is both honest and commit­ted to eradicate the menace.

Protecting and halting the rampant IUU fishing is every one’s interest. Living marine resources are lim­ited. Current practice of continuously poaching, delib­erate and indiscriminate IUU fishing impacts regional economies.

The new technique of poaching includes policy manipulation and flag of conveniences. Preservation, safety and the security of fisheries and marine re­source is the most important responsibility of the re­gional key stake-holders.

In order to eradicate IUU fishing in Somalia, there is an urgent need of the following:-

(i) Establish national and regional MCS network;

(ii) Establish a centralized, publicly available regional database of high seas fishing;

(iii) Legal fishers and civil society groups should be supported in naming and shaming vessels and com­panies proven to be involved in IUU fishing activities;

(iv) The IGAD, SADC member states and the EU should help in cracking down the IUU vessels in the West Indian Ocean region;

(v) Financial and technical support should be pro­vided for IGAD and SADC member states to enhance their monitoring and enforcement capabilities;

(vi) Landing and transshipments of IUU-caught fish should be prohibited by all states.

(vii) Vessels should be required to provide ports au­thorities with a copy of their authorization to fish, de­tails of their fishing trips, and catches on board;

(viii) Port states should communicate inspection re­sults with relevant Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and Flag states;

(ix) Ports of Convenience such as Mombasa, Las Pal­mas in the Canary Islands and Port Louis in Mauritius, must introduce measures to combat IUU fishing, or have sanctions brought against them;

(x) International pressure should be brought to bear on FOC states to ensure greater compliance with the needs and obligations of international maritime law; and

(xi) The High Seas Task Force members should ac­tively direct development funding towards enforce­ment capability in Somalia.

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