European and Asian Ships Continue to Plunder Somali Waters

The international community has failed to grapple with the real underlying political and economic issues facing the troubled East African nation of Somalia, which has been surviving without an effective government for over two decades, according to a new study.

With the country’s 3,300-km coastline virtually unprotected, industrial fishing vessels from Europe and Asia have entered the area in large numbers and are plundering Somalia’s rich maritime resources.

“Having over-fished their home waters, these sophisticated factory ships are seeking catch in one of the world’s richest remaining fishing zones,” says the report published by the New York-based Global Policy Forum (GPF).

“The foreign boats are illegal, unreported and unregulated – part of a growing international criminal fishing enterprise,” it says.

Authored by Suzanne Dershowitz and James Paul, the report was released ahead of a high-level international conference on Somalia scheduled to take place in London Feb. 23.

Despite the efforts of the African Union (AU), the United Nations and the international community, international policy towards Somalia is not succeeding, admits the British government, which has convened a London meeting, hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

“After 20 years of sliding backwards, Somalia needs a step-change in effort both from the international community, but also Somalia’s political leaders,” the report adds.

The organisers are expecting around 40 governments to attend the London conference, along with representatives of the United Nations, the AU, the European Union (EU), World Bank, the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development, the Organisation of Islamic Conference, and the League of Arab States.

Britain has also invited representatives of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Institutions, as well as the presidents of Somaliland, Puntland, Galmudug and Ahlu Sunnah wal Jamaah (ASWJ).

The GPF reports says: “The battles off the coast of Somalia are closely connected to the onshore crisis in the country, where again we find heavy foreign use of military force.”

During the Cold War, the primary importance of Somalia was its geostrategic location. Today, there are new interests, including mineral reserves of iron ore, tin, uranium, copper and other metals.

“Most importantly, there are likely deposits of natural gas and an estimated 5-10 billion barrels of crude petroleum reserves – worth as much as 500 million dollars at today’s prices,” the report says.

U.S., Australian, Canadian and Chinese and other companies are already at work to tap these rich resources.

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