Illegal fishing can lead to conflict in Somalia

While Somalia has seen decline in piracy over recent years, illegal fishing has increased. And it’s not a minor problem. “There is a connection between illegal fishing and conflict in the area”, said Senior Program Manager Robert Mazurek from Secure Fisheries, a project of One Earth Future Foundations, while opening the workshop on Vessel Identification and Evidence Collection Related to Fisheries Crimes on 18 November in Mogadishu.

The workshop, co-hosted by EUCAP Somalia, was attended by the Minister of Ports and Marine transport, Hon. Marian Aweys, and the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Hon. Abdullahi Bidhan Warsame, Commander of the SPF Maritime Police Unit Anwar, and several other Somali and international stakeholders as well as EUCAP Somalia experts. Broad interorganizational participation was pivotal, as interagency cooperation is needed to achieve one of the goals of the workshop: to improve and harmonize the collection, communication and dissemination of human intelligence to combat illegal fishing and associated crimes.

Mr Mazurek also pointed out that not all the illegal fishing can be observed even by advanced technology like satellites; personal observations of fishermen and local population in general and reporting those observations to the authorities is very important as well.

This interagency coordination workshop, run by the EUCAP Somalia and Secure Fisheries, is one of several projects related to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), where Mr. Mazurek has been a facilitator. These workshops conducts in Indian Ocean states have deliberated on best practices and common standards for evidence collection, vessel identification and intelligence reporting.

Although illegal fishing is a transnational crime, this particular workshop co-hosted by EUCAP Somalia, concentrated in the situation and challenges faced by the Somali authorities combatting this type of crimes. As Mr Mazurek pointed out, almost 90 % of the world’s fish stocks are fished to capacity or overfished. It’s not surprising that this situation, combined with illegal fishing, can lead to security challenges and conflict. “Every country should be able to communicate to its citizens that the foreign vessels they see on their waters are licensed and bringing money to the country”, said Mr Mazurek.

Minister Aweys mentioned that the government of Somalia has already taken steps to identify illegal vessels by demanding Somali fishermen to reregister their vessels, but the campaign has not brought the anticipated results yet. On the other hand, Minister Warsame expressed his wish that the Somali authorities could have a swift access the intelligence and observations gathered by, for example, the EU NAVFOR and the UN. At the same time, Minister Warsame was convinced that the workshop will be useful for Somalia: “We as the Government are grateful for Secure Fisheries ad EUCAP for hosting this vital workshop which is first of its kind, bringing relevant stakeholder together to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in Somalia’s Exclusive Economic Zone.”

The workshop recognized that in Somalia, there is a need for interagency task force and/or information sharing mechanism on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU). Another idea, one of many, presented in the workshop was to include prosecutors to the fight against IUU by identifying individuals within the judiciary and prosecutor’s office with expertise in maritime issues and creating trainings around prosecuting IUU fishing cases.