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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Mar. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00704

Foreign Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing in Somali Waters Perpetuates Conflict

 Sarah M. Glaser1*,  Paige M. Roberts1 and Kaija J. Hurlburt1
  • 1Secure Fisheries, One Earth Future Foundation, United States

Somali waters have the potential to support some of the most productive fisheries in the world, but the sustainability of those fisheries is compromised by the presence of foreign fishing vessels, many of them fishing illegally. The Somali domestic fishing sector is small and relatively nascent, but foreign vessels have fished in Somali waters for at least seven decades. Some foreign vessels and their crew have been a direct, physical threat to Somali artisanal fishers. Many foreign vessels directly compete for fish, reducing fish populations and destroying marine habitat through bottom trawling. In this paper, we reconstruct foreign catch in Somali waters from 1981 – 2014 and classify the health of seventeen commercial fish stocks. Foreign fishing has increased more than twenty-fold since 1981, and the most rapid increase occurred during the 1990s after the collapse of the Federal government and ensuing civil war. We estimate foreign fishing vessels caught 92,500 mt of fish in 2014, almost twice that caught by the Somali domestic fleet. Iran (48%) and Yemen (31%) accounted for the vast majority of foreign fish catch in the most recent year of analysis. Although responsible for only 6% of total foreign catch, trawl vessels disproportionately impact public perception of foreign fishing. We find they trawled over 120,000 km2 of marine seabed in nearshore waters during 2010 - 2014. Foreign IUU fishing in Somali waters is fueling public anger and perpetuating conflict in five ways: by directly competing with the domestic fishery; through links to piracy; through nearshore illegal and destructive bottom trawling; by contributing to regional political conflict over vessel licensing; and by reducing long-term livelihood security. Significant levels of foreign fishing combined with inconsistent governance means Somalis are not fully benefitting from the exploitation of their marine resources at a local or national level, leading to insecurity at both scales.

Keywords: IUU fishing, Somalia, Fisheries conflict, Distant water fishing nations, sustainability, fisheries governance, trawling, Foreign fishing

Received: 01 May 2018; Accepted: 01 Nov 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Glaser, Roberts and Hurlburt. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Sarah M. Glaser, One Earth Future Foundation, Secure Fisheries, Broomfield, 80211, Colorado, United States,