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Somalia with an estimated fishery production potential of over 800,000 tonnes per annum barely derives sufficient revenue from the sector, a report shows. A bulk of income in the sector is lost to illegal fishing trawlers.

According to the report, Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Somalia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is costing the country more than $300 million yearly, causing a low output of $135 million in value per year (about 2 percent of its GDP).

Mombasa, Kenya, is the main market for Somalia’s fish and fish products in East Africa, while Europe, the Middle East and Asia are some of its major destinations.

On June 30th,  an NGO known as the Global Fishing Watch (GFW), in conjunction with Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT), employed the use of tracking technology to investigate the illegal fishing activity in the country’s waterways. It reported that about 200 Iranian fishing boats operating illegally had been detected in waters off Somalia and Yemen. 

According to Charles Kilgour of GFW and Duncan Copeland of TMT, “a smaller subset of Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan flagged vessels have also been identified” in the area.

Over the years, illegal trawling in Somalia has triggered clashes between foreign and domestic fishers, destabilising the lives of people in the coastal communities. A recent report indicates the role of foreign fishers, who have trawled the coastlines for at least seven decades with little or no deterrence, in fueling clashes among fishers and hurting the country’s economy. 

According to a statement by Sarah Glaser in the report, when illegal foreign fishing is unreported and unregulated, it reduces fish stocks and undermines the Somali government’s ability to put in place sustainable management plans. “Ultimately, this reduces domestic economic and livelihood security,” she adds. Glaser is the acting director at Secure Fisheries, a project of the US nonprofit One Earth Future.

When the Somali government collapsed in 1991, clashes escalated as civil war took hold and warlords scrambled to rule the longest unprotected coastlines in continental Africa. In November 1991, power struggle after the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre between clan warlords Mohamed Farah Aideed and Ali Mahdi Mohamed killed and wounded thousands of civilians.

The leadership void created by the civil war saw the massive exploitation of illegal foreign fishers who began to harvest millions of tonnes of fish from the Somali coastlines. Currently, Somalia fisheries sector, which employs over 400,000 people, is relatively underdeveloped and dominated by foreign-owned trawlers who sometimes underreport catch in order to evade taxes.

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