OMAN - The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) has praised Oman for closing its ports to vessels suspected of engaging in Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Somalia. The step follows Oman’s ratification of the Port State Measures Agreement, an international measure designed to stop IUU fish reaching markets.
During 2014, four vessels flagged to Korea were observed by EJF, using satellite tracking technology, fishing in Somali waters close to shore. The vessels—named Ixthus 7, Ixthus 8, Ixthus 9 and Baek Yang 37—used modern port facilities in Salalah, Oman to periodically land their product.
Upon investigation by EJF and Korea, it was not possible to establish with certainty the legality of their activities. As a result, in late 2014 Korea proactively applied a ‘precautionary’ approach to the management of its fleet, barring its vessels from fishing in areas not governed by clear fisheries regulations. Korea also stopped certifying catch from the vessels, meaning they were unable to legally send their product to the lucrative EU market.
As a result, the vessels left the Korean registry, claimed to change ownership and gave themselves new names (Haysimo 1 and 2 and Butilayo 1 and 2).
Now claiming to have a Somali flag, the vessels turned off the mandatory technology that allows remote tracking and apparently continued to operate in Somalia and use Salalah to land their fish. They were joined by two other trawlers, Poseidon that had also recently left the Korean registry, and Al-Amal.
However, after correspondence between the Federal Government of Somalia and Oman, the latter has taken the decisive step of closing its ports to the three of these vessels while they were heading towards Salalah to offload their catch, Officials from Somalia had written to Oman that the vessels’ supposed Somali flag was invalid and that Poseidon did not have any license to fish in the country.
Steve Trent, Executive Director of EJF, said: “Oman has taken an important step. Closing markets to fish that is not demonstrably legal is a critical part of the international fight against IUU, “pirate” fishing. By applying these port state measures, Oman is helping legitimate fishers, helping to protect the environment and fish stocks and helping coastal communities along the Somali coast.”
Ahmed Al-Mazrouai, Director General of Fisheries Resources Development, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, from Oman, said: “Oman was one of the first countries to ratify and implement FAO Port State Measures Agreement in 2013, as Oman believed that this Agreement was a framework to facilitate efforts and enhance cooperation between different countries to deter and eliminate IUU fishing. In this particular case, upon reception of communications from Somalia stating that these vessels have been illegally fishing in Somali waters, Oman has taken the decision to close its ports to these suspected vessels, which we believe is an important step to support the efforts against IUU in the Somali waters, and in the Indian Ocean. Today we are looking at continuing working with Somalia which needs to further enhance its licensing procedures”.
TheFishSite News Desk
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