Bossaso — A Bossaso court convicted on Sunday, 78 Iranians who were caught in April illegally fishing in Puntland state waters, Garowe Online reports.
On Sunday, Judge Sheikh Adan Ahmed handed out fines of 100,000 US dollars to the owners of the five illegal fishing boats and up to 5,000 US dollars to the captains of the illegal fishing boats apprehended near Bossaso. The 73 other Iranian fishermen were given fines up to 2,000 US dollars.
According to Judge Ahmed the fines have to be paid within 45 days or the fishermen will serve jail time. The owners of the fishing boats will also have to pay within 45 days or their boats will be impounded to the Puntland government.
Twelve Somalis who were on board the illegal fishing vessels serving as security guards were also charged fines.
The Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) apprehended the 5 illegal boats in late April after Somali fishermen reported an influx of illegal fishing boats from Yemen and Iran. The 5 Iranian boats were captured off the coast of Qow located 20 KMs from Bossaso.
PMPF Admiral Abdirizak Diriye Farah who spoke to media after arresting the Iranian fishermen stated that the maritime forces would continue operations against illegal trawlers and fishing boats that have "overwhelmed" Puntland and Somali waters.
Somali fishermen along the coast of Puntland have reported numerous illegal fishing cases to authorities. However Puntland authorities have told GO, coastal forces such as the PMPF are in the initial stages and don't have the capacity to protect the massive coastline.
"Compounded with the fact that piracy has decreased giving a chance for oppurtunists such as illegal trawlers and fishing boats to enter Somali waters, the [coastal] forces can't protect the vast coast without support," the Puntland government source stated.
One Somali fisherman feared that if illegal fishing is not stopped piracy would make a comeback.
"Fishermen have been complaining about illegal trawlers and boats from all over the world, who feel as if they can illegally fish without any repercussions, this is what started piracy. If the international community wants to put an end to piracy they need to put an end to illegal fishing," said Ahmed Mohamed a fishermen for 15 years who has worked all over the coast of Somalia.
Continuing, Ahmed said that measures needed to be taken against the illegal fishing trawlers in Somali waters.
"The international Naval ships are on the search for pirates, they are not mandated to search for illegal fishermen; are they not pirates? You can't expect to put an end to a problem without preventing the cause of the problem," said Ahmed.