Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ravaging The Ocean Stock - Puntland

"Pirates will not be eliminated as long as there is illegal fishing, because those people who are doing piracy consider themselves heroes defending their resources."
Hassan Warsame, Fisheries Minister, Galmudug State, Somalia

"Now it's in the original home of piracy, in an area they thought they cleaned up. It's very disappointing."
"That's the thousand-dollar question. People keep talking about the Galmudug Coast Guard, but that doesn't exist."
"It's quite often pirates fining people, finding a fishing boat, and saying they're illegally fishing. It's not actually a coast guard. It's more former pirates."
John Steed, senior maritime expert, UN Office of Drugs and Crime

Just when the world breathed a sigh of relief that modern-day piracy off the Horn of Africa was stilled, the last month has brought a succession of piracy incidents back to the Somalian coast. Off the coast of Somalia's Galmudug state, to be precise. An area where illegal fishing vessels were convinced they must pay the "fines" exacted upon them to reflect their illegal status which would be relieved once the fines were received.

The international shipping industry views the sea lane routes that take them into that area, critical to the movement of transports valued at $700-billion in cargo every year. Now, hijacking episodes that bedevilled the industry several years back have returned, men commandeering cargo ships off the Somali coast, and re-assigning the journeys to a charted course toward the coastal town of Hobyo, known as a former pirate stronghold. From March of 2017 to April pirates have been busy in the Puntland region of Somalia.

Oil tankers, merchant vessels, fishing vessels, they are all game for the ambitious, looting Somalian pirates who feel justified in their new, remunerative mission in life. The busy transport corridors of international shipping had seen a lull in the business, however, leading the international anti-piracy forces and the shipping companies to drop their protective guard. In December a NATO naval force left the Horn due to the decline in pirate attacks.

Cargo ships halted basic precautionary measures no longer hiring armed guards, sailing further from shore at higher speeds. Now there are voices being raised in a chorus of charges that opposing through military means the proliferation of pirates to put them out of business was merely a temporary solution. Awaiting a final solution that would ensure that illegal fishing by foreign vessels, destroying Somali fishermen's legal fishing rights, is the only way to restore the coast to stability.
The small boats used by the special maritime police force are no match for some of the vessels used by illegal fishermen and criminal pirate gangs.
In Puntland the small boats used by the special maritime police force are no match for some of the vessels used by illegal fishermen and criminal pirate gangs. TRT World

According to Somali federal law, foreign ships are forbidden from fishing inside 15 miles of the coast, in a measure meant to preserve fisheries for small-scale fishermen out of Somalia. Destructive bottom trawling is also banned by Somali law. In Puntland, where the federal government in Mogadishu has little control, however, those laws have failed to  alt the practices they're meant to address.

Somali authorities should be engaged in intercepting illegal fishing vessels to bring them to justice, but areas like Galmudug have settled on accepting rampant illegal fishing in the absence of maritime authorities. Local armed groups have taken to extracting "fines", instead, where the Galmudug Coast Guard extracts those fines and allows the illegal foreign fishing vessels to go on their way. The reality is that Galmudug has no official coast guard.

And fishing permits are improperly doled out to foreign fishing vessels, with trawlers buying their permits from the Puntland state government which hasn't hesitated to violate Somali law where only the federal government is permitted to issue commercial fishing licenses. Ten million in value of fishing licenses were sold by Puntland's government to China last year, as well as to South Korean and Djibouti flagged trawlers.

Illegal fishermen took advantage of porous security in recent years to pillage Somali waters, compelling impoverished fishermen to turn to kidnapping and ransom.
Illegal fishermen took advantage of porous security in recent years to pillage Somali waters, compelling impoverished fishermen to turn to kidnapping and ransom. TRT World

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