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Somalia vows to intensify crackdown on illegal fishing

Monday April 8, 2024

FILE - The Greko 1. The owners of the Belize-registered, Panamanian-vessel were fined in 2016 for illegal and unreported fishing in Somali waters and have paid an amount of $65,000 directly to the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS). The vessel was detained in Mombasa until payment of the fine.

Mogadishu (HOL) — The Somali government, grappling with persistent illegal fishing challenges, has intensified its stance against unauthorized trawling activities within its territorial waters. On Saturday, the Ministry of Fisheries and Blue Economy reiterated the stringent regulations embedded in the Somali Federal Fishery Law, particularly emphasizing the prohibitions outlined in Article 31.

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing has been a longstanding issue, costing the Somali economy an estimated $300 million annually. Somalia, with the longest coastline in continental Africa, has faced significant hurdles in monitoring and enforcing maritime laws due to years of civil conflict and instability.

The Ministry's recent announcement underscores the legal ramifications for violators of fisheries law. "In compliance with Article 31, any breaches may lead to fines, imprisonment, and confiscation of both the illicitly obtained fish and the equipment utilized in these violations," the Ministry warned. 

Somalia has recorded several incidents involving foreign trawlers, particularly from Iran, Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka, operating illegally in Somali waters. A 2020 report by Global Fishing Watch and TM-Tracking revealed that almost 200 Iranian vessels are fishing unlawfully in the region, with no authorization from Somali authorities.

The Somali government's efforts to bolster fisheries governance have included partnerships with international organizations such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Initiatives like the fisheries pilot project, alongside training sessions for inspectors and maritime police, are part of a broader strategy to enhance surveillance and enforcement capabilities.

In a recent enforcement action, Somalia detained 33 Iranian fishermen and sailors in the Summer of 2023, subsequently releasing them two weeks ago following a diplomatic agreement. 

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) initiated a fisheries pilot project in collaboration with the Ministry of Fisheries and Blue Economy, the Attorney General's Office, and the Mogadishu Maritime Police Unit. Inspectors, prosecutors, and boarding officers convened for a series of training sessions in October 2021 and June 2022 to gain expertise in fisheries protection and inspection. The UNODC delivered training on fisheries patrol operations at sea to officers to assist them in combating crimes in the fisheries sector. The vessel, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) techniques were among the skills taught during the training session.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Blue Economy urges all fishing entities and vessel owners to strictly comply with the Somali Federal Fishery Law, emphasizing the collective responsibility to preserve marine resources and foster a sustainable ecosystem for future generations.


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