Chinese Fishing Vessels in Somali Waters

Somalia’s coast is believed to have the richest fishing grounds in the region. This is due to the majority of fish species found in the waters of Somalia’s coast. Since fishing is one of the most lucrative businesses across the globe, Somalia’s coast has great potential. As a matter of fact, the tuna industry contributes about $0 billion globally. Somalia, the Horn of Africa country, invited China to its shores in a bid to exploit this valuable resource. The invitation took place in late December by handing fishing licenses to China. According to authorities, the 31 vessels from the Chinese will exploit Somali shores. Consequently, the country will soar economically through Chinese fishing vessels in Somali waters.

The China Overseas Fisheries Association is a Chinese trawling group responsible for these vessels. Its core mandate is to promote the East Asian giant’s competitive edge abroad. There was a set agreement that required the Chinese ships to operate in Somali waters for one year. Then, if there was a success, an additional year contract will be signed. On top of that, foreign ships should not exceed operations between 44 km to Somali’s seaward and baseline. Such rules are for protecting the small-scale fishermen in Somalia. For easier monitoring, the boats have to give information about their operations. For example, they must declare their positions and the weight of the catch onboard.

Why is fishing untapped in Somalia?

First off, the onset of civil war in 1991 led to the negligence of economic activities. Thus, fishing has been the most valuable but untapped resource for the longest time. Another factor is poor infrastructure throughout the country. As a result, fish consumption has been limited to coastal areas. This makes a high number of Somalia’s population fail to access fish. Funny enough, very few Somalis are familiar with fish. Most of them prefer meat over fish, as has always been the norm. However, all is not lost. Certain periods of time have resulted in a rise in demand for fish. This is mostly during the drought when there is a low supply of meat. At such times, low-income groups opt for fish which is readily available. Chinese fishing vessels in Somali waters will encourage them.

How the Chinese agency got this contract

Before, the foreign vessels engaged in overfishing in the Somali waters. They also dumped toxins and wastes into the shores. This saddened Somali pirates who had to act fast before the situation deteriorated. These foreigners would take advantage of the absence of a solid government. Then, there used to be no coastguards protecting the Somali coasts. According to research, foreign vessels extracted illegal fish too, worth $58 million. Following these issues, the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) considered collaboration with another agency. One that would be responsible for extracting the fish as instructed. This would, in turn, grow the economy of Somalia. Besides, it would benefit the population at large by providing employment opportunities. It also has a positive impact on other sectors like manufacturing, finance, and banking, among others.

The flip side of this project

The downside of allowing Chinese vessels in Somali’s shores is the fear of exploitation by these foreigners. Everyone asks, “Has the FGS guaranteed that China will not deplete this wonderful resource?” Prior experiences in West Africa have been unpleasant. Chinese vessels have drained stocks, obtained licenses illegally and threatened local fishermen. On the positive side, Beijing has embarked on fighting these vices. It has eliminated subsidies as well as canceled licenses of illegal fishermen. Another issue is the deal for China to construct Mogadishu seaport through a loan. This may trap Somalia in debt over small privileges.


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