Somalia’s Puntland State is once again on a collision path with the country’s government in Mogadishu over a blue economy strategy seen as contradictory to their laws.
This week, Somalia ordered all foreign vessels to leave its waters in the exclusive economic zone, part of new efforts to tap into its marine resources by regulating fishing. The decision came three weeks after a blue economy strategy was publicised, revealing desire for the country to win back its rightful sea wealth. The strategy also forms part of the new draft law which federal states should pass to make it the formative policy for the country.
But Puntland, one of the five federal states in Somalia, argues there had been no consultation and has asked its local legislative assembly to reject it. Puntland Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources said the new policy violates the federal structure where sharing of natural resources must be based on consultations with federal state governments.
Ministry of Fisheries & Blue Economy issued an statement on foreign vessels that are illegally fishing within Somalia’s territorial Waters. pic.twitter.com/zqOVEeufRj— Radio Muqdisho (@RadioMuqdisho) March 6, 2023
“Somalia’s Ministry of Fisheries and Blue Economy’s policy is in violation of its constitution and the provisions of previous agreements such as the Baidoa Agreement and the Addis Ababa Agreement in relation to the distribution of fisheries resources between in Federal Government of Somalia and Federal Member States (FGS and FMS) including resource distribution management,” Puntland’s statement said.
“The Baidoa Agreement on February 2, 2018, and the Addis Ababa Agreement on March 22, 2019, define the negotiation process of sharing Somalia National Fisheries Resources,” the statement added.
Puntland, however, had earlier suspended active cooperation with Somalia’s government pending the enactment of a new constitution to clarify the overlapping of powers between the two levels of government. The federal state has not explained whether it will proceed to implement the suspension, but its local fisheries ministry said it retains powers over resources in its jurisdiction until a new supreme law is passed.
Farah Ali, a fisheries expert in Bossaso, told The EastAfrican that the bone of contention between the two levels of government is their diverse interpretation on resource sharing.
“Puntland wants to benefit from its long marine coastline, which is almost a third of Somalia’s 3,333 kilometres coastline. It will stick to that until the country attains full framework of national resource sharing,” Ali stated.
New BE strategy
With support from regional bloc, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), Somalia has been re-writing its blue economy (BE) policy, seeking to control its marine resources following years of plunder. Dr Guleid Artan, the Director of the Igad Climate Predictions and Applications Centre (Igad CPAC) said Igad with the Somali Ministry of Fisheries and Blue Economy has been working for the last four months on developing of national blue economy strategy for Somalia.
#Puntland Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources warns to both Houses of #Somalia's Parliament to approve the Federal Fishery law which Minister Ahmed Hassan presented the Federal Fishery bill to lawmakers on 25 February, 2023.#Puntland claims that the fishery bill is… https://t.co/wS7NPruvO5 pic.twitter.com/hW7hpZIejG— The Daily Somalia (@TheDailySomalia) March 6, 2023
After a workshop earlier this year, the two sides said a new BE strategy would harness the economic and strategic priorities of the country’s resources.
“Functional BE Strategy will lead to a profound transformation of institutional structures and governance models.”
But some of the country’s federal states such as Puntland have had direct foreign engagements with entities seeking to harvest fish in Somali waters. It was unclear how the new policy will affect existing contracts.
Somalia has recently renamed its Ministry of Fisheries and Blue Economy, expanding its mandate, something the Puntland government feels it was not adequately consulted about.