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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.

Somali News

Mogadishu Blasts Death Toll Rises to 38

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VOA — The death toll from two suicide car bomb blasts that ripped through the Somali capital of Mogadishu Friday, has risen to at least 38 people, according to government sources.

Abdulkadir Abdirahman Adan of the Aamin Ambulance Service said the bombings targeted the presidential palace and a hotel. At least 30 other people were wounded. Adan said that most of the victims were civilians.

The first blast occurred near the country’s intelligence headquarters. Minutes later, another car bomb hit a checkpoint about 300 meters from Somalia’s presidential palace.

The al-Shabab Islamist militant group claimed responsibility in a statement posted online, saying it was targeting the government and security services.

A Somali intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told VOA that suspected al-Shabab militants in a vehicle were stopped at the checkpoint, and began firing before the car exploded.

He said militants trying to escape were fighting Somali security officials pursuing them in the vicinity.

“We heard two big explosions and gunfire is still echoing in two different directions of the city,” Mogadishu resident Nur Abdulle told VOA. “After [the] blasts, we could see a huge cloud of smoke [go up] into the air.”

Al-Shabab has attacked dozens of government buildings, hotels, restaurants, and other targets in Mogadishu in recent years.

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Briefing Room

Singapore-flagged tanker attacked off Somalia but escapes

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AP — Mogadishu – An international anti-piracy force says a Singapore-flagged chemical tanker has exchanged fire with attackers off the coast of Somalia before escaping unharmed.

The European Union anti-piracy force says in a statement that the MT Leopard Sun was attacked by two skiffs early on Friday about 160 nautical miles off central Somalia. A private security team on the tanker fired warning shots and the skiffs turned away about 20 minutes later.

The Horn of Africa nation saw a brief resurgence of pirate attacks a year ago.

The EU statement says Friday’s attack is “likely to be piracy related” and is the first such attack since November.

The statement says the chemical tanker had been en route from Oman to Cape Town, South Africa.

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Somali News

BREAKING: 2 blasts, gunfire rock Somalia’s capital

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MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A Somali police official says two car bomb blasts have rocked the capital, Mogadishu, followed by sustained gunfire. Three people have been killed.

Capt. Mohamed Hussein says the first blast, apparently caused by a suicide car bomber, occurred near Somalia’s intelligence headquarters.

The second blast occurred near parliament’s headquarters, where security forces have engaged with gunmen thought to be trying to attack the presidential palace.

The explosions have shattered a months-long period of calm in Mogadishu, which is often the target of attacks by the al-Shabab extremist group.

There is no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday evening’s blasts.

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