High-level Corruption in Somalia Facilitates Illegal Fishing
Mogadishu, Somalia (SOMALI AGENDA)–On January 21st of this year, SOMALI AGENDA published an exclusive story on a South Korean fishing vessel the Poseidon that made an emergency stop in Mogadishu. The Poseidon carried 37 workers and almost $2 million worth of illegal fish when it was intercepted by the Somali Coast Guard. Around the same time, another fishing vessel the Al Amal made a similar docking at Mogadishu’s International Port. Both the Poseidon and the Al Amal are part of an elaborate and well connected illegal fishing network that has wreaked havoc in the Somali waters and disrupted the livelihoods of fishing communities throughout the Somali coast.
The brief detention of the Poseidon and the assassination attempt and threats on the life of Somalia’s Auditor General Nur Farah after he tried to investigate the fishing vessels also highlighted the immense influence and power of the illegal fishing networks that operate throughout the Somali Coast. SOMALI AGENDA has carried out a protracted and hazardous investigation to unstitch this intricate and powerful network and is now able to share its key findings.
The Somali Waters have long been used by illicit networks for various purposes for the past many decades. Since the 1980s, European firms initially in conjunction with the Somali government and later with clan warlords, used Somalia as a dumping ground for nuclear and other toxic waste. As the Somali civil war raged on, Western firms began a cruel barter trade in which in exchange for arms, Somali warlords allowed the dumping of nuclear waste and other toxic materials across Somalia both on land and on sea.
The warlords also permitted these Western firms to illegally fish in Somali waters to make the arrangement more attractive. And herein lies the genesis of the illegal fishing saga in Somalia. In 1994, Italian journalist Ilaria Alpi and her cameraman Miran Hrovatin were both murdered in Mogadishu when they attempted to expose this network.
Since then, health experts have documented the exponential growth of cancer rates along the Somali coast corresponding to the areas where the toxic waste were first dumped. The current illegal fishing saga in Somalia follows the same shadowy pattern that was employed by the Western firms in which corrupt Somali officials are financially enticed to sanction illegal fishing in Somali waters.
The fishing trawler The Poseidon which was forced to make an emergency stop in Mogadishu’s International Port after it ran out of fuel, was in fact authorized to engage fishing in Somali Waters under the flag of Somalia with all the rights and privileges that would normally be reserved for a Somali vessel. This despite the vessel belonging to a South Korean group. It was partly due to this arrangement that attempts to investigate the vessel by Somalia’s Auditor-General were blocked at the highest level and the vessel was allowed to leave port unhindered.
Officially, both the Al Amal and the Poseidon are Yemeni registered through a company by the name of Burum Seafood Company. However, both the vessels are owned by a Korean group that owns not just both the vessels but all of the other vessels that are operated by Burum Seafood Company. This same Korean group and its vessels are accused of illegally fishing throughout the East African Region
Burum Seafood Company is accused of creating a fraudulent Puntland Fishing License allowing the Al Amal to fish around the Exclusive Economic Zones within Puntland for a period of one year. SOMALI AGENDA has seen a letter by Puntland’s Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources denying the allegations that it issued the fishing license to the Al Amal; terming it as duplicitous and requesting strong actions be taken against the vessel.
PHOTOS: The crew of the fishing trawler Al Amal after it was boarded by Somali authorities in Mogadishu. The crew consisted of Kenyans, Thai and other nationalities. There are credible indications the fishing trawlers are involved in human smuggling and other illicit activities.
Soon after leaving Mogadishu, both the Al Amal and the Poseidon were held at the Mombasa port when the Kenyan authorities suspected that both the vessels were illegally fishing in Kenyan waters. In Mombasa, a notorious Korean individual by the name of Kim Jin Woo arrived to follow the inspections. Kim Jin Woo is a leading player in the Korean illegal fishing network across the Indian Ocean region with deep ties to numerous Somali groups.
He is listed as the previous owner of the Golden Wave, which is currently known as The Lucky Star and is linked to the family of Abdirehman Farole, Puntland’s former president. SOMALI AGENDA has received credible leads that the Lucky Star was recently hijacked by a Hobyo based piracy syndicate led by an individual named Mohamed Farah as a collateral over unpaid khat shipment by members of the Farole family.
The connections of the Farole family to the illegal fishing syndicates that operates in the Somali region is also quite alarming. Up until very recently, Mohamed Abdirehman Farole was the director of an internationally funded and well equipped anti-piracy force known as the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF). The PMFP was established in 2010 at the request of Abdirehman Farole who was at the time Puntland’s president with the financial backing of the government of the United Arab Emirates to secure Puntland’s coast and deter pirate networks that operated in the region.
The surge in illegal fishing in the Somali waters is directly tied to the decrease in piracy. Today, fishing communities across Somalia that have previously thrived are being pushed out by international fishing companies that harass local fishermen and limit their catches.
Since its inception in 2012, Somalia’s Federal Government has frequently been accused of serious cases of corruption and graft by the United Nation’s Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group. Investigations by the Bloomberg BUSINESSWEEK last year accused Somali Natural Resources Minister Abdirizak Omar Mohamed of signing a shady deal that gave fishing rights to former British Soldiers. Experts believe more than $300 million worth of illegal fish is stolen from Somali waters each year.