Chinese officials meet to discuss fishing opportunities in Somalia
Chinese officials and fishing industry executives have met to discuss opportunities in Somali waters for the country’s giant distant-water fleet. Several Chinese fishing firms are already operating in the region, targeting tuna and other species.
Fei Sheng Chao, China’s ambassador to Somalia, addressed the online meeting, which also featured Li Le Fu, the head of policy at the fisheries bureau of China’s Ministry of Agriculture; as well as Chen Xue Jian, secretary general of the China Distant Water Fisheries Association, an industry trade group that coordinates reporting of fishery firms international activities for the ministry.
The ambassador “stressed that Chinese fishing firms must abide by the laws and regulations, effective authorization, bilateral cooperation framework, and international law of China and Somalia in daily operations,” according to a statement from his office.
Fei also said his office had strengthened communication and improved relations between fishing enterprises and governments at all levels in Somalia as well as between “Chinese crews and foreign crews.”
Chinese vessels, as well as operators from Iran, have faced accusations of illegal fishing in Somali waters, and Chinese media has reported the country’s supply of fighter jets to Somalia was paid for in part by fishery access rights granted to Chinese state-controlled arms and aviation firm AVIC.
Responding in May 2022 to Somali media questions about Chinese fishing in Somali waters, ambassador Fei said “disinformation” by unnamed other countries had distorted the public’s understanding of the access deals signed between the two countries.
“I always have a very strong sense of being wronged by the people who actually accuse us, China, of illegal fishing, because when it comes to illegal fishing or any other illegal activities, no matter in fishing or any other areas, China is on the side of justice and on the side of law,” he said. “We strongly advise and encourage all Chinese fishing vessels to have the federal licenses, no matter whether they have the state licenses.”
In 2020, Somalia asked Iran for more information on fishing vessels flying its flag and operating in Somali waters. A 2020 report from Global Fishing Watch and Trygg Mat Tracking, based on data collected between January 2019 and April 2020, appears to show Iranian vessels operating without approval inside the exclusive economic zones of Somalia and Yemen.
Trygg Mat Tracking Executive Director Duncan Copeland said at the time the situation “is likely one of the largest illegal fishing operations occurring in the world.”
Photo courtesy of Somalia Ministry of Foreign Affairs