From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Thu Apr 02 2009 - 09:27:30 EST
SOMALIA: Getting tough on foreign vessels to save local fishermen
NAIROBI, 2 April 2009 (IRIN) - Somalia has revoked fishing licences for
foreign vessels and is planning a new law to regulate fishing in its waters,
a minister told IRIN on 2 April.
The move follows complaints by local fishermen of lost livelihoods because
they lacked modern equipment and the means to replace old nets, and were
being forced out by foreign-owned vessels.
"I do sympathise with the fishermen and we are working on a new law to
regulate the activities of these [foreign] ships," said Abdirahman Ibbi, the
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources in the
new Somali National Unity Government.
Ibbi said an estimated 220 foreign-owned vessels were engaged in unlicensed
and illegal fishing in Somali waters. Most were of European origin, he
However, he said, it was "impossible for the new government to monitor their
fishery production in general, let alone the state of the fishery resources
they are exploiting".
Abdullahi Sheikh Hassan, head of a fishing cooperative in the southern
coastal town of Merka, told IRIN that livelihoods were being destroyed.
"Fishing is the only thing we know and without it we have nothing," he said,
adding that lack of support, combined with the foreign fishing vessels, was
ruining fishing communities.
Hassan said many members of his cooperative, established in 1974, lacked
equipment, such as boats and nets, "because they had no means to replace the
Reports of crews of foreign-owned ships harassing and intimidating local
fishermen had been made by Somali fishermen.
"They are not only taking our fish, but they are also stopping us from
fishing," said Mohamed Abdirahman, a fisherman in Brava, 200km south of
Mogadishu. "They have rammed boats and cut nets."
He said a number of Somali fishermen were missing and presumed dead after
encounters "with these big ships".
Abdirahman said the number of foreign ships in the south had increased after
they were chased from the north by pirates. He said the foreign ships were
now being protected by the navies of their countries and "do whatever they
want to us".
Local fishermen go out late at night to set their nets, but discover in the
morning that they have been cut or stolen. "They are no longer satisfied to
take our fish, but they are forcing us to abandon fishing altogether," he
He claimed some of the foreign navies were treating Somali fishermen as if
they were pirates and had occasionally opened fire on Somali fishing boats.
"We are forced to avoid going far and stay within sight of towns to avoid
them and this means our catches are much smaller," Abdirahman said. "We are
being driven out of business by foreign vessels protected by their navies.
Who is protecting us? Our existence depends on the fish."
He said the international community was only "talking about the piracy
problem in Somalia, but not about the destruction of our coast and our lives
by these foreign ships".
He said many families were already destitute and if the situation did not
improve, "many families will be begging".
Somalia has a 3,330km coastline, with major landing sites in Kismayo,
Mogadishu, Merka, Brava, Eil, Bargal, Bolimog, Las Korey and Berbera, and
Bosasso. It has large species, including tuna and mackerel; smaller stocks,
such as sardines; shark species and lobsters.
Somalia, which has been ravaged by civil war since 1991 and has had no
effective functioning central government, lacks the capacity to ensure
controlled exploitation of the fishing sector and can hardly enforce fishing
regulations on its own, much less stop foreign vessels, said a civil society
source in Mogadishu.
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