Fishermen in Puntland are struggling to turn the riches of the sea into a thriving livelihood because of poor infrastructure and skills and other threats.
Jama Mohamud Ali, manager of the local Corno Africa Fishing Company, listed the lack of internationally recognized exportation certificates, the lack of investment in processing plants, and illegal fishing by foreign trawlers as the major challenges.
Somalia has not established a system of trade licensing, inspection and quality control sufficient to allow local fishing firms to trade successfully with international fisheries companies.
“Your business will not grow if you don’t have proper licenses to export fish, as people overseas will not trust you,” Jama said.
The local market for the sale of fish is limited due to the low average income. One of the biggest opportunities is presented by Chinese traders coming to Bosasso to buy dried shark fish, known locally as ‘xaniid’. The shark is cut open, salted and dried in the sun on the beaches ready for sale. The Chinese traders bought seven tons of dried shark this year at $90 per kg.
But this type of fish is available only half the year. The locals do not have skilled divers to continue the fishing year round, and the drying process is unsophisticated.
“Our youth have been inflicted with many problems,” Jama said. “They chew Khat that makes them lose their appetite. If you are a diver you need to be 100% healthy and strong enough to carry breathing apparatus and stay under water for quite some time.”
Abdiqafar Warsame, director of Regional Marine Conservation Company, told Radio Ergo there was a general need to improve skills capacity among local fishermen and to train companies on processing and marketing techniques.
According to Jama, the future depends on partnering with big international companies to conquer new markets in the Far East and Africa. “For everyone to benefit, we have the fish and they have the markets, skills, license and investment that is a problem for us,” he said.
Illegal fishing is another big problem facing local fishermen. Foreign trawlers with advanced equipment have already flooded Somalia’s closest markets in Yemen and United Arab Emirates.
Puntland’s minister of fisheries and marine resources, Abdirashid Mohamed Hersi, told Radio Ergo his government aimed to work with local fishing communities to establish fish processing plants to enable local fishermen to gain from exporting higher value dried fish. He said the ministry was seeking investors from the business community including money transfer firms.