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EU nations authorized their vessels to unlawfully fish in African waters

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By Abdi Latif Dahir

For more than three years, European Union members states authorized unlawful fishing activities off the coast of Africa in contravention of common regional laws and policies, a new report shows.

Oceana, the largest international advocacy organization for ocean conservation, said that Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain violated the laws of the European Common Fisheries Policy by awarding private fishing authorizations to vessels, which granted them access to waters in The Gambia and Equatorial Guinea. Using an online monitoring tool, Oceana recorded 19 EU-flagged vessels that illegally fished for almost 32,000 hours in African waters from April 2012 through to August 2015.

Globally, the EU is by far the largest single market for seafood imports in the world, with foreign fishing contributing 28% of the total EU catch. To operate in third-country waters, EU vessels need to obtain a fishing authorization from their flag states. But in cases where there are active fishing partnerships with other nations, vessels are not allowed to operate under private national agreements. This also applies to when agreements are “dormant,” like in the case of The Gambia and Equatorial Guinea, where there is no guiding protocol.

Oceana says these private agreements are problematic because they are negotiated under total opacity, with vessels not providing information on target species, fishing areas, types of gear used, or data on the collected catches. María José Cornax, senior policy and advocacy director at Oceana said that their findings “show that even vessels from countries with strong legal frameworks, such as those within the EU, can engage in unlawful practices.”

As the world’s seas run out of fish, illegal fishing has become a major problem across the world. African countries are especially threatened by illegal fishing, with large trawlers from both Asia and Europe using different strategies to pillage marine beds and deplete vulnerable species like sharks and reef fish. The problem is even more severe in West Africa, where illegal fishing costs countries like Senegal, Guinea, and Sierra Leone over $2 billion annually. In Somalia, reduced navy patrols and the return of illegal fishing is also being touted as the reason why the notorious piracy industry is making a comeback.

To tackle this, Oceana says private fishing authorizations need to comply with the same EU standards on fisheries, environmental, and labor laws. Vessels that do not comply with laws or which switch off their satellite-linked Automatic Identification System during fishing should also be penalized or not granted a fishing authorization. External fleets should also adhere to the rules of the newly-passed, EU regulation which sets stringent standards to all vessels seeking authorization and addresses issues like reflagging, where a vessel repeatedly changes its flag for the purposes of circumventing conservation measures.

Somaliland

Work starts on new UAE naval base in Somaliland

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ARABIAN BUSINESS — Divers Marine Contracting has started construction of a United Arab Emirates naval base in a semi-autonomous region of northern Somalia.

The closely held Sharjah-based engineering group began work on the project after being awarded the $90 million contract in April, Managing Director Abdulla Darwish said in an interview in Dubai.

The facility, being built near the regional port of Berbera, is expected to be completed by June, he said.

Berbera is located on the Gulf of Aden, 260 kilometers (162 miles) south of Yemen, where UAE troops in a Saudi Arabia-led coalition are battling Houthi rebels.

Somaliland’s foreign minister said in May that the UAE leased the airport in Berbera for 25 years as part of a pact for a military base. The gulf country is also building a military installation in Eritrea.

The Somaliland naval base will include a 300-metre L-shaped inland berthing port with a depth of 7 metres “to support the military airport,” accommodating naval vessels to patrol the Gulf of Aden, according to Darwish.

“It’s not a commercial port,” he said. “It’s only for naval vessels.”

Somaliland Foreign Minister Saad Ali Shire didn’t immediately respond to two calls to his mobile and two emails seeking comment. A UAE foreign ministry official didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Somaliland

New Somaliland president to strengthen ties with UAE

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As the self-declared state of Somaliland welcomes its new president – the fifth in a line since breaking away from Somalia in 1991 – it is looking to the UAE for a new chapter of cooperation.

Professor Ahmed Ismail Samatar, head of Public Policy for the ruling Kulmiye Party, told The National that its victorious candidate, Muse Bihi Abdi, views the UAE’s achievements with “admiration” and is keen to develop the existing ties between the two regions.

“The new partnership that’s developing between Somaliland and the UAE is a high priority for the government,” he said. “We want to deepen and strengthen and thicken the relationship with the UAE.”

The region of 4 million people has not been internationally recognised but it has recently drawn in sizeable investments from the Gulf.

Earlier this year, the government agreed to let the UAE establish a naval base in its port of Berbera.

That came after Dubai’s DP World last year signed a multimillion dollar, 30-year contract to develop the same port, which is on the south coast of the Gulf of Aden.

This month, DP World said it would also develop an economic zone in the region, modelled on Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone.

The new economic zone is aimed at positioning Berbera as a gateway port for East Africa, by encouraging investments and trade in the warehousing, logistics, manufacturing and related businesses.

“DP World building out the port of Berbera is an excellent way of injecting energy into the economy,” said Professor Samatar, who is himself formerly a Somali presidential candidate and Member of Parliament.

“There is a great deal of anticipation around the project. The people of Somaliland are hoping it becomes a major hub for goods to come and go, and of course there are other positive side-effects, such as increasing employment and developing infrastructure.
“For the military base, too, there are benefits such as greater security for the people of Somaliland. However, these benefits need to be fleshed out in more detail to the people.”

The Kulmiye party has six core public policy priorities, as laid out in their manifesto. These are: economic growth; national security and unity; foreign policy; healthcare; justice; and education.

In each of these, Professor Samatar believes there is room to develop the relationship with the UAE.

“There is so much that Somaliland can pick up from the UAE, whether it’s in education, health, business, technology, security, international relations, you name it,” he said.

“The UAE is a very cosmopolitan place; its government is run properly, its businesses are run properly, and there are international standards that the Somaliland people and their new president view with a great deal of admiration,” he said. “They want to adopt the same practices, so they can lift their own country up.”

“Even just the culture of competence, and having institutions that work well. And having an ambition to improve them even further. In that way, the UAE is a model for us, and we would be wise to observe it and learn the tricks of the trade.

“But it is important that the relationship is built carefully, it is deep, and it is intelligent.”

Asked about future projects with the UAE, “there is lots we would like to propose,” Professor Samatar said.

“Take a look at our long coast line, for instance. We need to think about how to use and really maximise that coast – from building fishing ports to developing tourism. These are areas where we can certainly learn from the UAE.

“Exploration for energy is another thing this government is focused on – not just using solar, but also natural gas, petroleum and so on. This is something else the UAE is very good at.

“And then there’s infrastructure building – this country badly needs roads, and telecommunications systems.

“So I see lots of areas where we can partner with the UAE. Indeed, the possibilities of collaboration are much more promising than just the port and the military base.”

Dr Michael Walls, chief observer for the International Election Observation Mission in Somaliland, agreed that the relationship between the UAE and Somaliland has the potential to grow further under the new president.

“A win for the ruling Kulmiye party’s candidate was always going to result in the easiest transition in terms of a relationship with the UAE,” he said. “It means there’s no need to go back and renegotiate deals struck by the previous government. So, from the UAE’s perspective, it’s really business as usual.”

He added: “Now the election is out of the way, I think things will move much faster on the port as well as developing the military base. And I have no doubt the new president will be hoping to benefit from closer cooperation with the Gulf, from improving the roads, to health, to education.

“From here on, I believe we will see more investment and what’s more, we’ll see evidence of that investment, as the projects start to come to life.”

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Briefing Room

Somalia says it requested U.S. air strike which killed 100 militants

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Somalia’s government said on Wednesday it had requested the U.S. air strike which killed more than 100 suspected militants on the previous day to help pave the way for an upcoming ground offensive against Islamist militant group al Shabaab.

The United States military’s Africa Command said on Tuesday it had killed more than 100 of the al Qaeda-linked insurgents in an air strike on a camp 125 miles (200 km) northwest of the capital Mogadishu.

“Those militants were preparing explosives and attacks. Operations against al Shabaab have been stepped up,” Abdirahman Omar Oman, the Somali minister, told Reuters.

“We have asked the U.S. to help us from the air to make our readied ground offensive more successful.”

The United States has ramped up operations in Somalia this year after President Donald Trump loosened the rules of engagement in March.

Africom reported eight U.S. air strikes from May to August this year, compared to 13 for the whole of 2016. Including Tuesday’s air strike, it has reported five strikes in Somalia this month alone.

The Pentagon said the U.S. military would continue to target militants in strikes in coordination with the Somali government.

A Navy Seal was killed in a raid in May and U.S. forces were present at a controversial raid on the town of Bariire in August, in which 10 people were killed.

Al Shabaab has lost control of most of Somalia’s cities and towns since African Union peacekeepers supporting Somali troops pushed the insurgency out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011. But it retains a strong presence in parts of the south and center.

Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a dual U.S.-Somali citizen, has taken a harder line than his predecessors against the insurgency since he was sworn in earlier this year.

But his plans have been repeatedly thwarted by the poor state of the Somali military and political infighting.

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