NGO says Iranian boats are illegally fishing in Somali waters


Roughly 200 Iranian fishing boats operating illegally have been detected in waters off Somalia and Yemen, according to a new NGO investigation.

Global Fishing Watch (GFW) and Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT) are partners in a study that relied on increasingly available tracking technology – used to help boats avoid collisions – to identify the boats and their locations. The automatic identification system (AIS) on the boats, along with a series of buoys attached to fishing nets to track those too, delivered the research data.

“A smaller subset of Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan flagged vessels have also been identified in these areas,” said Charles Kilgour of GFW and Duncan Copeland of TMT. They worked with regional organizations, including the Somali government, seeking to understand the scope of a longstanding illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing problem in the northwest Indian Ocean. Their results are released in the Fisheries Intelligence Report.

“We hope that our analysis will be used to advance enforcement efforts against these vessels by the flag states, improve vessel identification and authorization transparency, and gain support from international maritime security operations in the region to monitor and deter illegal fishing activity,” the report authors added.

Somalia’s Abdillahi Bidhan, the fisheries minister, said the government never issued licenses to any of the Iranian boats identified in the tracking project.

“Illegal fishing will not be tolerated by Somalia,” said Bidhan. The IUU practices, he added, present “a significant threat to the food security, economic development, sovereignty and maritime ecology of Somalia.”