Fishing for the Future

A vast area of untouched fishing territory is waiting to be exploited in Somalia. However, more than 20 years of civil war has led to this extremely valuable resource being neglected.

Improvements with regards to transparency, governmental effectiveness and increased stability in the region has allowed Somalia to reach a point where it is vital that Somalis work together to take advantage of one of their most abundant resources.

How important is a thriving fishing industry to a country’s economy? If we take Canada as an example, according to Canadian Fisheries Statistics 2008 , Canadian exports of marine, freshwater and aquaculture fish, and seafood products accounted for roughly 3.5 billion USD for just the year 2008. Looking at the GDP of Canada as a whole, it is only a moderate contribution however when looking at Somalia, it would triple the value of the current GDP per capita which is roughly 120USD. The contribution of Fishery in the present-day GDP of Somalia is around 2% .

Owing to various external and internal factors, not many studies were conducted in Somalia to exclusively understand the fishing industry’s potential. However, from the studies that have been conducted, the results were very encouraging. For example, from November 1983 to October 1984, a study conducted by two Romanian factory ships, F/V Glabucet (88m) and F/V Bahlui (102m), discovered a potential of recovering 2.38tonnes of small pelagic fish per square kilometre off the northeast coast, primarily between Ras Asir and Ras Hafun .

Distribution of operators along the Somali coast (Elmer, 1985)

Boat Type East Coast North Coast Total
Motor boats15866224
Sail boats174-174

The current statistics regarding the organisations which are currently exploiting the 3000km stretch of coast that spans Somalia are shown in table below.

With regards to the workforce taking part in exploiting this resource, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, there are roughly 2,700 full-time fishermen and 1000 working part-time.

These numbers consist of a mixture of:

  • Local artisans using small boats
  • Industry sized trawlers being used either illegally or legally
  • Currently the vast majority of the exploited fish is sold exclusively inside Somalia. The only exports are primarily to Europe and the Far East, and are composed of lobsters and shark fin respectively .

The future of the Somali fishing industry is supposedly controlled by the Somali government. However, given the current state of affairs the industry is mainly controlled by foreign companies. This is not a desirable position to be in as Somalia should not be too reliant on foreign companies exploiting its resources for it.

More efforts need to be taken internally by the government in order to highlight just how important the growth of the fishing industry is for Somalia. Just comparing the return on investment both socially and economically with regards to operating a successful fishing industry, it is easy to see just how valuable it is to set up a legitimate fishing industry in Somalia.

A strong fishing industry will result in more jobs for the Somali people, more trade with foreign countries as well as more diverse culinary menus in Somali restaurants. More fish in the Somali market will ease the demand on foreign imports and aid resulting in a more independent government.

So the question is, what steps must Somalia take in order to take advantage of this opportunity?


The biggest challenges currently obstructing the creation of a robust and economically profitable fishing industry in Somalia are:

  • Safety is not guaranteed due to pirates as well as safety from rogue militias with regards to land facilities for processing and storing fishes.
  • Corruption of leaders with regards to not prioritising the interest of the Somali people.
  • Financing necessary equipment and training (trawlers, processing facilities)

Currently the majority of Somali fishermen are working for themselves using their own boats and taking the profits of what they sell as their salaries.

Another challenge would be for an organization to hire these fishermen, provide them with training first and then start creating job contracts with regards to their selected positions.

Somalia has all the variables in place to establish a vigorous and efficient fishing industry:

  • It has the longest coastline in Africa.
  • It has a diverse and abundant marine environment.
  • It has yet to be resourcefully exploited.

In addition to these points, the fish in Somalia is literally an untouched resource when compared to other parts of the world where seas have been heavily depleted over decades. Moreover, stability is on the rise in Somalia as more and more Somalis are coming together to improve their country. Now is the golden period for Somalia and one of the driving forces could definitely be a vigorous and thriving fishing industry.

By: Yaseen Grimen - Reservoir Engineer 

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