Monday March 6, 2023
FILE: Photograph: Pierre Gleizes/Greenpeace
Mogadishu (HOL) - Several fishing vessels from foreign countries have been caught illegally fishing in Somali waters, according to evidence gathered by the Ministry of Fisheries and Blue Economy. The vessels have reportedly been operating in the Somali Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) since January 2023, posing a significant threat to the country's sustainable fishing regulations, fish stock, and overall marine ecology.
Somali waters have been plagued by Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing for decades, leading to significant environmental and economic problems. IUU fishing occurs when fishing activities violate national and international laws and regulations or are not reported to the appropriate authorities.
The Ministry has confirmed that the fishing vessels in question are operating without access agreements or fishing licenses from the Federal government. According to Somali fisheries law and the country's constitution, only the Federal government's Minister of Fisheries and Blue Economy can issue foreign fishing permits.
In September, the Puntland regional government refused a federal directive to deny state-level fishing licenses, arguing
that it violated resource-sharing agreements with Somalia's regional governments.
The Ministry has acknowledged that foreign IUU fishing vessels have been operating in Somali waters for decades, causing significant harm to the country's marine environment and threatening the livelihoods of Somali fishermen. These vessels engage in various harmful practices, including overfishing, bycatch of non-target species, and the use of destructive fishing gear that damages the seabed and coral reefs. These activities have led to declining fish stocks, endangering food security and depriving local communities of their livelihoods.
To combat this issue, the Ministry has established procedures, rules, and regulations that define the terms and conditions of the legal process for issuing foreign fishing permits. The Ministry has also clarified that endorsement letters are not legal and cannot be considered valid legal permits to fish in Somali waters.
The Ministry demanded on Sunday that all foreign fishing vessels illegally operating in Somali waters leave the Somali EEZ immediately and comply with Somali law and the conservation management measures of international law. The Ministry also called on ships to pay compensation for the fish they illegally took from Somali waters. Failure to comply will result in punishment and prosecution under Somali and international law.