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Iranian flagged fishing vessels identified operating illegally in Somali EEZ 

Vessels include the FV SIRAJ and FV JABER, both hijacked south of Hobyo while they were operating close to shore in March 2015

Jun 25th 2020 · 1 min read

Increased monitoring of the Somali exclusive economic zone (EEZ) has revealed the continuing presence of a fleet of unauthorized, Iranian flagged fishing vessels, according to Somali authorities.

Using a combination of automatic identification system (AIS) tracking, satellite remote sensing imagery and radar images Somali authorities have estimated that at least 200 vessels have been fishing illegally during the 2019-2020 fishing season. 

Between January 2019 to April 14 2020, approximately 112 Iranian fishing vessels were identified transmitting on AIS transponders from within the Somalia EEZ for a total of 2,533 days. In addition to the fishing vessels, 83 AIS net markers were also linked to Iran.

This is likely to be a conservative number due to the poor signal strength of the AIS transponders on these vessels. 

Minister of fisheries and marine resources of the federal government of Somalia, Abdilahi Bidhan Warsame, said after opening up waters through a licensing system it was a slap in the face. Since 2018, more than $2.6 million has been raised by Somalia through licence fees. 

"Having worked so hard to develop a transparent licensing system it is very concerning to see that foreign fleets are not prepared to go through the legitimate channels to gain access to fish in Somalia," he said.

Vessels identified include the FV ARESH, an Iranian flagged fishing dhow arrested in April 2015 by the Galmudug coast guard and fined $100,000 for illegal fishing and the FV SIRAJ and FV JABER, both hijacked south of Hobyo, while they were operating close to shore in March 2015. A total of 39 crew members were captured between the two vessels.

A further 43 markers could be matched to vessels transmitting on AIS, however, 17 transmitted a vessel name that was not matched to a vessel AIS and the remaining 33 were not broadcasting a discernible name. This suggests that the Iranian fleet operating inside the Somalia and Yemen EEZs consists of at least 192 vessels. 

"The AIS analysis of the AIS net markers and data from remote sensing techniques suggests the foreign fleets operating inside the Somalia EEZ is significantly larger than seen from the AIS alone and represent one of the most substantial organized illegal fleets in the Western Indian Ocean for more than a decade," said Global Fishing Watch, which helped develop the report with Trygg Mat Tracking. 

Warsame added: "We call on all distant water fishing nations to ensure they are controlling their flagged vessels and to respect our sovereignty and fisheries management regime. Our focus is on developing a safe, sustainable and fair fishing industry to benefit our nation."

Information about the licensing system, legal framework and legally licensed fishing vessels is available on the ministry website. 

last updated: 2020-06-25@18:06