(ERGO) – Somali fishermen in coastal villages in Mudug’s Hobyo district are facing attacks from armed foreign trawlers, cutting their fishing nets and using live ammunition to drive them out of the sea.
Said Yasin Elmi and his six employees stopped fishing in October after their nets and other equipment were destroyed by foreign vessels during attacks twice in one week. He says they were shot at by the attackers although none of his crew was injured.
“Life is unpredictable because we all live on what we catch from the sea. My employees have left to search for other jobs. People who used to work here are now sitting idle on the beach. Those foreign vessels are out fishing at sea. They cut our fishing nets!” he said angrily.
He is buying food for his family of 10 with five dollars he gets a week from relatives in Galkayo and Mogadishu. The local food stores where he lives in Labad, 30 km from Hobyo. will not give him credit.
He used to make $30 to $40 a day from fishing activities after paying his six employees a daily wage of $10 each. Now he says his children are sometimes sleeping hungry.
“I tell myself that things will get better. My nets and equipment that were destroyed by the foreign ships are still in the sea. I don’t know anything else I can do now, I have no other skills to earn a living,” he said.
Said owns his own fishing boat. He said he lost three fishing nets, each worth $80.
The disruption is affecting around 150 fishermen based in Labad, Iidaan, and Af-wayns villages. The chairman of 50 fishermen in Iidaan, Nur Khalif Adan, said he and his team are still fishing despite the attacks. He told Radio Ergo that every 24 hours, they fish for about two hours towards sunset when the foreign vessels are not around. They only manage to cast their nets a mile offshore, catching little more than enough for the family food.
“If we cast our nets at night or early in the morning they get cut. This is what the invading vessels are doing to us. There are a lot of them at sea and they fire at us if we try to go out there,” he said.
Nur was clearing $75 a day selling the fish he caught with three employees, each paid $10 a day.
On 14 November, a Chinese-owned vessel was caught by the Galmudug authorities off the coast of Hobyo but was freed two days later, when it emerged that it had a fishing license issued by the federal government.
The local fishermen are accusing the federal government of allowing foreign trawlers to disrupt their livelihoods.
The director of Galmudug fishing ministry, Abdirashid Mohamed Abdi, confirmed that licensed foreign fishing vessels are obstructing the local fishermen, but they cannot stop their “ugly behaviour.” The trawlers are supposed to keep 50 miles off the Somali coastline but constantly breach the limit. The ministry has received many complaints from local fishermen and has asked the federal government to intervene, with no response yet. The Galmudug administration says it will seek assistance from the European Union naval forces in Hobyo to equip and train a coastguard team to restore order.