SomalilandPress — Not so long ago, the coast of Somalia was plagued by pirates. At the peak of the problem, in 2011, there were 237 incidents of piracy off Somalia and the Gulf of Aden (the sea separating Somalia and Yemen), accounting for more than half of all such incidents worldwide. The pirates would often hold shipping crews hostage for ransom. Somali piracy cost an estimated $6.6 billion in 2011 in international naval activities, maritime security, insurance and other costs.
‘Why aren’t they fishermen?’
The NGO says it now works with more than 25 fishing businesses, which collectively own more than 50 boats and 20 shops.
One business that buys ice from FairFishing is Berbera Tannery, which has 10 boats and more than 70 employees. Its daily catch ranges between 850 kilograms (1,874 pounds) and 1,300 kilograms (2,866 pounds) and the ice allows it to keep fish fresh long enough to sell in the neighboring country of Djibouti, says the company.
“FairFishing is very important,” said Mohammed Yusuf, Berbera Tannery’s managing director. “Fishing helps Somaliland to create jobs. All of our boats are registered in Somaliland and all our fishermen are from Somaliland.”
As well as ice, FairFishing provides equipment and runs educational programs for local chefs, fish vendors, fishermen and women householders.
A $3.3 million grant from the European Union in 2016 helped the NGO fund four coastal fishery stations, three fish markets and a boat workshop, the first of its kind in Somaliland.
A report by Nordic Consulting Group published in January 2019 found the NGO helps support the livelihoods of around 2,000 to 3,000 people in the fishing industry. It says the average monthly income for boat owners has increased from $264 in 2012 to $1,288 in 2018. Crew members have seen their salaries increase more than 300% in the same period.
A decline in piracy
The International Maritime Bureau says Somali pirates have been deterred by a combination of factors, including an increased presence of international navies, the use of private armed security teams, and “the stabilizing influence of Somalia’s central government.”
Last year, for the first time in two decades, offshore fishing licenses were issued by the Somali government for foreign and domestic vessels. Over $1 million was collected and the funds are expected to be reinvested into the domestic fishing sector, according to the World Bank.
Bindslev believes a growing fishing industry has also made piracy less attractive.
By 2021, FairFishing is hoping that turnover among Somali fishers, chefs and street kitchen owners will have grown to $10 million, says Bindslev. “My vision is to create peace and business with fish,” he said. “Then show the world we can do good things in very fragile places.”