The waters around Somalia are some of the richest in the world. Despite this opportunity, the Somali fishing industry is not competitive on a global scale. The industry is relatively undeveloped, with a lack of resources preventing deep-water fishing. Fishermen who are active either lack the skills to fish in the prime waters or do not have the equipment to do so.
Although agricultural products make up 50% of Somalia’s GDP each year, the fishing industry contributes just 2%. This is despite the fact that the coastline in Somalia is the longest on the African continent under the control of ne nation.
Large schools of tuna migrate through the area. Swordfish, shark, and lobster are thought to be in the surrounding waters. At the current moment, they remain mostly inaccessible.
Even if the fishing methods could improve, the industry does not have the infrastructure in place to process the catches either.
Note: Much of the data available for the Somali fishing industry is from 1991, which was the last reporting year before civil war broke out in the region.
Important Somali Fishing Industry Statistics
#1. There are over 3,300 kilometers of coastline in Somalia, making it one of the most potentially productive fisheries in the world today. (Food and Agriculture Organization)
#2. As part of the average annual GDP, recent estimates place the fishing industry around 1%. That is because fishing for the industry occurs on a mostly small-scale basis, using basic nets and lines. (Food and Agriculture Organization)
#3. There is no information regarding the fleet size of the Somali fishing industry at this time. There are an estimated 6,500 fishermen who work off the shores of Puntland regularly. About 3,100 have been officially registered as a method to reduce piracy within the region. (Food and Agriculture Organization)
#4. In 2011, there were 237 confirmed or attempted attacks by Somali pirates in the coastal waters. In 2012, those figures dropped to 75. There were 0 in 2015. (Brookings)
#5. International fleets may be coming into Somali waters to harvest more than $300 million worth of seafood products each year. (Brookings)
#6. The captures made by foreign vessels in Somali waters were estimated to be triple that of Somali fishermen, even in 2011, at the peak of piracy. (Brookings)
#7. Somali fishermen are able to catch an official weight of 50,000 metric tons of seafood each year. Foreign catches from vessels, legal or illegal, have been above 150,000 metric tons since 2001, peaking at 250,000 metric tons in 2003. (Brookings)
#8. Somali laws prevent foreign vessels from fishing just 15 miles from shore. Anything beyond that is legally accessible. (Brookings)
#9. Puntland is believed to have sold $10 million worth of fishing licenses to China, which is against the law in the country. (Brookings)
#10. Foreign bottom trawlers have potentially damaged up to 120,000 square kilometers of sea floor, which may require several years for the area to recover to support commercialized fishing once again. (We Forum)
#11. Eliminating IUU fishing immediately would allow the Somali fishing industry to create up to $17 million in new revenues each year. (Secure Fisheries)
#12. 43% of the landings from the Western Indian Ocean are classified as “miscellaneous marine species.” 16% are never identified. For those that are, 14% of the landings are yellow fin and skipjack tuna. (Secure Fisheries)
#13. Spain is responsible for 37% of the official foreign landings that are permitted in Somali waters. The Seychelles lands 21% of the catch. They are followed by France (19%), Taiwan (12%), and South Korea (12%). (Secure Fisheries)
#14. For trawlers active around the coast of Somalia, 20% of their catch is cuttlefish each year. 19% is squid, while 17% are emperors. Barracuda (9%), grunts (7%), and grouper (5%) are commonly caught as well. (Secure Fisheries)
#15. The total import price of tuna legally caught from Somalia has tripled since 2001. Longline yellowfin import prices in 2013 were $9,421 per metric ton. Longline bigeye tuna was $9,644 per metric ton. (Secure Fisheries)
Somali Fishing Industry Trends and Analysis
The Somali fishing industry is one of many economic areas that was devastated by the long and drawn out civil war. Even after the war was over, Somalia fractured into several autonomous states, even if there were no actual claims for independence. In 1998, Puntland did declare a temporary independence, wanting to participate in a full reconciliation if it would occur.
In total, there have been four declarations of independence since 1998 in some form. Reconciliation is often attempted, but without success. Because the politics of the country are so chaotic, the industries of the country continue to suffer.
Until the country can find a path forward, the Somali fishing industry will continue to play a minor economic role for the country and its people. The goal of the industry is more about providing domestic supports than attempting to generate revenues through exports.
There is a lot of potential to find in this industry. It may take a generation or more to finally find it.