192 Iranian vessels 'illegally fishing' in Somali waters

Iranian vessels conduct one of world's 'largest illegal fishing operations' in Somali waters
2 min read
29 June, 2020
Evidence suggests the 192-strong Iranian fleet is six times larger than the 31-vessel China tuna fleet licensed to fish in Somali waters.
The Somali government is unable to police its 2,000 mile coastline [AFP via Getty]
Analysis from vessel tracking organisations has revealed the possible presence of at least 192 Iranian fishing boats operating illegally in Somali territorial waters for over a year, according to a Monday report in The Guardian.

The data points to one of the largest illegal fishing operations in the world, depleting the domestic food supplies of a country where 15 million people are experiencing threats to food security, including a locust plague, droughts which have caused flash floods, as well as Covid-19.

The analysis, conducted by Global Fishing watch and Trygg Mat Tracking, was made possible after Iranian vessels increased their use of collision avoidance software, allowing them to be tracked by satellites.

"The scale is staggering", TMT chief analyst Duncan Copeland told The Guardian. "It is beyond what any management plan can cope with…It’s going to deplete stocks."

Evidence suggests the 192-strong Iranian fleet is six times larger than the 31-vessel China tuna fleet licensed to fish in Somali waters.

The Somali government, plagued by years of civil war and instability, is unable to police its 2,000-mile coastline.

A 2017 report by a campaign group claimed that up to 2.4 million tonnes of fish had been caught illegally over the last 60 years, something Somalia says encourages piracy.

Adbdillahi Bidhan Warsame, the country’s minister of fisheries and marine resources, called for cooperation from Iran, after sharing the analysis with Tehran authorities.

"Illegal fishing will not be tolerated by Somalia. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Somali water constitutes a significant threat to the food security, economic development, sovereignty and maritime ecology of Somalia" Warsame said.

Charles Kilgour, director of fisheries analysis at Global Fishing Watch, told The Guardian that some Iranian vessels were detected very close to villages, suggesting a heavy impact wrought on domestic stocks. 

According to the UN, an estimated 2.7 million people are facing crisis levels of food insecurity in the impoverished Horn of Africa country, while a further 2.9 million are food stressed.  

Read also: Somalia facing 'triple threat' of coronavirus, floods, and locusts, UN warns

The Somali government has shared the analysis with the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC).

While the IOTC lacks its own investigative function, it has the power to request a flag state to investigate IUU fishing and report back within 60 days

Since 2018, Somalia has been part of FishiAfrica, a taskforce of east African countries, the IOTC and NGO’s who collaborate to fight IUU fishing.

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