In December, Somalia announced it was granting tuna fishing licenses to 31 Chinese vessels along its coastline.
Somalia has the longest coastline on mainland Africa and has struggled to tap its rich fishing resources or stop external fishing vessels from poaching in its waters.
The one-year agreement would allow China Overseas Fisheries Association, a trawling company created by Beijing in 2012 to exploit overseas fishing rights, to have exclusive rights for tuna and tuna-related species in Somalia’s maritime Exclusive Economic Zone. The trawlers would have only to declare their positions and the weight of their catch to Somalia as they departed the zone.
On the face of it, this would be to Somalia’s advantage. Its inability to exploit its fishing resources and depredations by foreign trawlers has been cited as a reason for the rise of Somali pirates in the western Indian Ocean region. Offering an exclusive contract to the Chinese firm would regularise the capture of such fish and provide the country with some desperately needed revenue.
There were false reports that China would also be given rights over the port of Mogadishu. However, a more reasonable concern is the record of Chinese fishing vessels which have been known to drastically overfish in other parts of the world, including off the Somali coast, and Somalia’s inability to monitor Chinese trawlers. Chinese trawlers will have to face increased pirate activity, which doubled between 2016 and 2017, as international maritime anti-piracy patrols were reduced.
December 29, 2018