Somali fishermen under attack from foreign trawlers

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Osman Abdi Mire is no longer able to go out fishing in the deep sea off the coast of Hobyo in northern Somalia’s Mudug region because his boat was destroyed and he was left injured in an attack by a foreign fishing vessel late last year.

Osman, 62, is one of hundreds of fishermen who have been put out of work by wanton attacks by foreign trawlers, according to local authorities and local people.

Osman described how a foreign vessel approached his boat out at sea last November and sprayed him and his five-man crew with pressurized hot water. The boat capsized and broke apart. Osman, who was at the front, received the brunt of the hot jets and his right arm was seriously injured. Al the men in his boat were blistered after being plunged into hot water. Another local boat came to their rescue and pulled them out of the water.

According to Mursal Mohamud Adan, the secretary of Hobyo’s local administration, fishing trawlers from Asia and the Middle East have committed atrocities against the local fishermen.  He told Radio Ergo that 50 boats had been destroyed in the past year by wanton attacks.  With five men normally manning each boat that means around 250 local fishermen were put out of a living and some possibly injured.

Hersi Osman Shire, a member of the fishermen’s union in Hobyo, put the number of fishermen who have given up fishing because of the attacks as high as 950.  Around 1,500 others still persist with fishing, despite the loss of equipment and the ongoing dangers.

Fishing is the most common livelihood in this area.  Osman, who has a family of 10 to feed, can only cast his tattered net in shallow waters from the shore, helped by his sons, as he has no boat left. He is also recovering from his arm injury.  They hope to catch enough for a family meal.  Osman has been in the business for 17 years and used to count on making a decent $10 a day to cover the family’s needs.

Abduqadir Mohamed Jama suffered a similar attack last June, he told Radio Ergo, when a foreign vessel he believed to be Yemeni used water jets to destroy his boat.  He was the breadwinner for his family of six and has been out of work since the incident.

The Hobyo authority recently formed a coastguard with 54 members but with a lack of equipment and poor training it has been hard for it to deal with the illegal fishing menace along the coastline.  There have also been cases where the coastguards have mistaken local boat crews for pirates, which has led to fear among the local fishermen.

Hobyo is not one of the major pirate bases any longer and there are few security patrols conducted along this part of the coastline by the anti-piracy EU Naval Force.

The local fishermen say they will only be able to resume their livelihood when the menace of foreign trawlers illegally fishing in Somali waters has been stamped out.

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