During Decades of Civil War, Foreign Fishing Fleets Plundered Somalia

While in political turmoil, foreign fishing fleets took the opportunity to plunder Somalia's fish resources.

Somalia was at war with itself. The Siad Barre government, which had taken power in a coup in 1969, fell in 1991, plunging the nation of 10 million into civil war. In the aftermath, warring warlords tore the Horn of Africa apart. And into this 3,330-kilometer-long void—the longest coastline in continental Africa—foreign fishing fleets swarmed. According to a new study, from 1950 to 2015—though mostly after 1990—foreign fleets took 2.4 million tonnes of Somalia’s fish, 80 percent more than official statistics suggested.

For years, Somalia’s subsistence and commercial fishers lost out to foreign industrial fleets from Italy, Japan, Greece, Singapore, Egypt, the former USSR, and China. Not all of the fishing was illegal, but the period was essentially a free-for-all as unlicensed foreign fleets devoured Somalia’s fish with rampant disregard for domestic and international law, says Tim Cashion, a fisheries expert with the Sea Around Us project at the University of British Columbia who worked on the new research.

Unsurprisingly, the species and number of fish being caught by Somali and foreign fishers alike was largely undocumented during this period.

Photo: AU-UN IST PHOTO/Stuart Price/Wikimedia Commons (CC0)

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