The deal has made local fishermen vulnerable to poverty as Chinese fishing companies are likely to outcompete them and also trigger another round of piracy in the Gulf of Aden.
Somalia has the longest national coastline (3,025 km) in Africa with an estimated shelf area of 32,500 sq km. But this coastline is not safe due to illegal fishing and dumping of hazardous waste.
Following the civil war in 1991, foreign companies embarked on illegal fishing and dumping of harmful toxic waste along Somalia’s largely unguarded coastline, depriving local fishermen of their livelihoods and endangering the lives of thousands of people.
In 1997 the environmental NGO Greenpeace confirmed that Swiss and Italian companies were acting as brokers for the transportation of hazardous waste to Somalia.
Later, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) concluded that the dumping of toxic waste was “rampant” along Somalia’s coastline and that local communities were developing chronic diseases such as cancer.
In 2013, the then president of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud signed a deal with a British company, Soma Oil & Gas, for oil exploration in Somalia.
Last year the Somali government granted 31 fishing licenses to China. The China Overseas Fisheries Association, which represents 150 companies, was allowed to fish for tuna in Somali waters.
The move raised fears that fishing stocks could be depleted, and the livelihoods of local fishermen threatened. There were also concerns that China would dump illegal toxic waste in Somalia’s coastline thus leading to environmental degradation.
Several people took to social media to express their outrage.