Somalia to tighten fishing licensing procedures amid illegal activities in Indian Ocean

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MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somalia is set to tighten her fishing procedures especially along the Indian Ocean shores, following rampant cases of Illegal Unreported and Unregulated [IUU] fishing, a move meant to seal the loopholes permanently for future revenue expansion.

A report which was recently published by the Garowe Online exposed many incidents of massive corruption, deep-rooted from the Federal Member States and the Federal Government, due to lack of proper procedures in-licensing of companies and fishing vessels.

In the report, top FGS officials including the minister in charge of Fisheries and Maritime Resources Abdullahi Bidhan Warsame were mentioned as part of the team with the clandestine mission of illegally licensing some companies even without official bidding.

But ironically, Warsame is now contemplating streamlining licensing procedures, something which will eliminate uncertainty brought about by parallel licensing by the FMS, which according to him, create loopholes in the whole exercise.

Somalia has a coastline of 3,333 kilometers which stretches from the Gulf of Eden to Kismayo, the regional administrative capital of Jubaland. But due to a lack of stable government, regulation of fishing has often been uncoordinated.

Mohamud Sheikh Abdullahi, the Director of Fisheries, told the Nation that a draft is ready for approval on licensing procedures, which incorporates the role of agencies of the federal government into that of the country's states, ensuring uniformity in the awarding of permits for fishing operations in Somalia.

“Somalia has drafted a new fisheries law that will address the gaps in the federal power-sharing system and also address the fisheries management, deals with corruption, license systems, and environmental protection,” Abdullahi said. “We are also strengthening the intergovernmental coordination within our country and with other maritime agencies.”

Abdullahi said the new law will alleviate the “confusion” that was turned into exploitable loopholes. Somalia has often struggled to monetize the Blue Economy, which could pump billions of dollars into her ailing economy.

“The confusion caused is because of the new federal structure which, as you may know, has not yet been updated to determine where federal and state powers begin and end,” he said.

For decades, Somalia has remained a haven of IUU fishing operations and pirates partly because of lack of a regulatory framework to control fishing operations, and also a lack of capacity to enforce any legal obligations stemming from a decade-long civil war resulting in impunity for Somalia-based gangs that have thrived on piracy and IUU fishing.

In addition, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization warned Somalia does not have accurate data on the fishing operations of its small-scale fleet.

“This has made it possible for activities such as piracy and illegal fishing to thrive in the waters off the Horn of Africa region,” FAO said.

The lack of accurate and up-to-date information on Somalia’s fishing industry means both the federal government and federal states have no understanding of the country’s fishing industry value chain, and cannot effectively support the eradication of piracy and IUU fishing operations, the FAO said.

FAO, in partnership with European Union, previously supported Somalia in the registration of 3,108 out of the estimated 6,500 fishermen operating on the shore of Puntland, a federal state in northeastern Somalia. The registration, which was done through a biometrics system, captured vital personal information of each fisherman, including photographs and fingerprints, according to the FAO.

“This information will be used to develop special identity cards, which will be carried by the fishermen while at sea and will also act as a critical database for the Ministry of Fisheries, security, and anti-piracy forces, both local and international, and local fishermen associations as they gather data on the exact number and location of fisherfolk in the area,” FAO said.

It's not clear how the government is going to handle unscrupulous business people within and outside the government, who have often been linked with illegal fishing activities. Despite the presence of many reports linking top officials to the businesses, the government has done little to trace them.

The opposition has previously accused the outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo of allowing his associates to misuse government resources. In the ongoing campaigns ahead of elections, such cases have been brought to the public limelight by disgruntled opposition.

GAROWE ONLINE

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