Fortnight ago, the Federal government of Somalia through the Ministry of Fisheries has legally approved 31 fishing licenses to China’s Overseas Fisheries Association. The license gives permission to Chinese fishing companies under the China Overseas Fisheries Association to be able to Fish Tuna along Somalia’s Coastline.
Tuna are significantly attractive to both foreign and domestic catch in Somali waters. Tuna have variety of species, mainly for which are the Yellow fin, Skipjack, Bigeye and Kawa Kawi. The ecological sustainability is determined by how they reproduce and what form are they eaten (canned, dried or fresh). Tuna are highly migratory and usually swim across the EEZ of many countries. In the Indian Ocean they are managed by theIndian Ocean Tuna Commission which collects data submitted voluntarily by TunaFishing Countries.
According to 2018 report by Secure Fisheries titled: Somali Coastal Development Opportunities Yellow FinTuna are unsustainably fished and should be regulated. This is because this particular species releases eggs every few days and the eggs and the larvae float for extended period of time making it easier to be predated upon by other bigger fish. However, the case is different for Skipjack Tuna, Bigeye Tuna and Kawa Kawi tuna.
Fishing of Tuna in theIndian Ocean has been dominated by 3 main nations Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and now China following the obtaining of licence for the fishing ofTuna. Article 64 of the United Nations Convention on the law of the Sea requires coastal states and other states that fish Highly Migratory species should cooperate through the appropriate International Organizations. This is to ensure appropriate management and conservation of the Tuna fish. The Somali FederalMinistry of Fisheries also outlines measures in the fisheries law meant to conserve marine resources. Article 5 of the Fisheries law states: “………by both native and foreign fishing vessels, during any period will not exceed the total allowable catch for the resources over the period determined by the Ministry. “
However, it is not clear on what is the total allowable catch and if there is, how possibly could the ministry arrive at a figure. There is no rationale of how one is able to determine when stocks are endangered. It can only be after those stocks have declined is when one is able to know that overfishing has taken place. There is also the risk of fishing vessels under reporting and misreporting catches. Also, for a long time the fishing sector has faced the prevalence of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing entailing a substantial loss of state revenue, which possibly could have been generated from licensing fees and taxes. SomaliaCoastline is about 3,333km with a width of 200 nautical miles. In light of theBlue Economy, the worry is now the lack of institutional capacity for effective maritime security to guard against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
The Federal Ministry of Fisheries needs to take into consideration the interest of Somali fishermen.Just last year in February of 2017, Puntland licensed seven Thai owned trawlers to operate off the coast of Puntland for three months, collecting up to$700,000 dollars of licensing fees. This contravened the Fisheries law of theSomali government that stipulates of the existence of a protection zone for coastal fishermen within 24 nautical miles of the coast and bans the use of trawling within the waters of the Federal Republic of Somalia.
The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources of the Federal Government objected to the licensing and operation of the trawlers. The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources even requested that Thailand deny port entry to MV Chotchainavee 35 for unloading, as it had engaged in illegal unreported and unregulated fishing in Somali waters. However later on the Ministry ofFisheries and Marine Resources retracted its request. This was a bit strange and yet Thai vessel had contravened the Law.
Addressing some of these issues is very critical, this is because first and foremost the oceans comprises of 70% of the earth surface and about two thirds of humanity inhabit the coastal areas and depends of the marine environment for their livelihoods. Overfishing and illegal fishing brings an important question of how Somalia should seriously manage its marine resources. It is an important question for Somali policy makers, even as they look to tap into the blue economy discourse that which will greatly boost the national economic growth of the country.
 Secure Fisheries 2018 report, One Earth Institute: Somali Coastal Development Opportunities
 Benjamin K. Sovacool (2009) A Game of Cat and Fish: How to Restore the Balance in Sustainable Fisheries Management, Ocean Development & International Law, 40:1
 United Nations Security Council Report: S/2017/924