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Somalia Issues Fishing Licenses to Chinese Operators

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Chinese fishing vessel (file image courtesy Tim Watters)

By The Maritime Executive 2018-12-18 13:40:02

Somalia has issued a large number of fishing licenses to Chinese operators, raising concerns among domestic fishermen that foreign fishing pressure in Somali waters will increase. 

In a ceremony on December 11, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo announced that his administration has granted 31 fishing licenses to the China Overseas Fisheries Association. "These licenses allow tuna fishing, and this shows that Somalia issues licenses through the legal process," he said.

For years, Somali fishermen have complained that foreign distant-waters fishing fleets have poached their waters using destructive methods, threatening their livelihood. These challenges are often cited as a causal factor behind the Somali piracy epidemic, which reached its peak in 2011. 

According to the Somali government, the new licenses are restricted to migratory tuna stocks, and will not affect local fisheries. In addition, the license restrictions reserve the waters within 24 nm of the coast for local fishermen. The waters outside of that line "are areas that the local fishermen do not have the capabilities to reach," said fisheries minister Abdiraman Ahmed, speaking to the BBC.

In the past, many observers have suggested that Somalia lacks the means to police its fisheries, and has not been able to prevent violations of its EEZ rights. According to Ahmed, that will not be the case for vessels operating with these licenses. 

"We can call foreign vessels into our ports, and we also have a ship that can go out and do inspections," said Ahmed. "We have ministry staff that are currently finishing their training as inspectors and observers, and they will be on board these vessels."