Analysis

Somalia Joins Global Effort to Fight Illegal Fishing at Ports

This analysis was updated on Dec. 17, 2015 to reflect that Seychelles had also previously ratified the PSMA and that Somalia is now the fourth African country to ratify the agreement.

The African nation of Somalia has ratified the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), according to paperwork filed with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The international treaty is intended to prevent illicitly caught and traded fish from being laundered through the world’s ports.

The waters off Somalia have long attracted illegal activities. For several years over the past decade, the risk of piracy drove most vessels away from this area off the Horn of Africa, but now fishing is making a comeback. That means illegal fishing could once again threaten the region’s fish stocks and economy.

By ignoring the rules, vessels engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing haul in up to $23.5 billion worth of seafood every year around the world. Somalia ratified the PSMA on Nov. 9, sending a strong signal that the nation’s ports are closed to seafood caught by illegal operators.  

In another demonstration of leadership in this fight, Somalia has asked to join the FISH-i Africa network. This would allow the government to take part in information-sharing and cooperative regional efforts to spur enforcement action against illegal fishing operators in the western Indian Ocean.

Somalia joins Gabon, Mozambique and Seychelles to become the fourth African country to ratify the PSMA (see interactive map). More African nations are expected to approve this cost-effective approach to stopping illegal catch from entering the market. The agreement will become legally binding once 25 governments adopt legislation. So far, 16 countries have ratified the measure.

Tony Long directs the ending illegal fishing project for The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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