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Somalia's biodiversity at risk

MOGADISHU, Somalia, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- While piracy in Somalia is attracting media attention, leasing by warlords of offshore water to poachers is threatening Somalia's marine biodiversity.

Somali warlords provide "protection" to illegal fishing fleets in return for money and weaponry.

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Environmentalists warn that illegal trawlers are over-fishing indigenous fishing stocks and their nets are entangling large numbers of turtles and dolphins and destroying critical reef habitats.

Poachers are intensively fishing lobsters, sharks, tuna, ray fins, deepwater shrimp and demersal whitefish, including cod, whiting, haddock, hake and pollock.

The biodiversity losses are beginning to have a significant impact on the economic welfare of Somali coastal fishing communities, which cannot compete with the poachers.

Geeska Afrika news agency reports that the illegal fishing is strengthening the Somali warlords' economic power in the absence of any centralized government.

An environmentalist with the underground Somali Green Party, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "It is unlikely that Somali warlords and vessel operators will support a return to legal operations whereby the Somali state would license an access to its water zone via a legal and transparent process."

Somali Green Party officials recently reported to the European Greens' global security center that a southern Somali warlord recently provided a London-based licensing corporation access to Somali waters in return for receiving royalties from the corporation for its operations in Somali offshore waters.

The Somali Green Party is investigating reports that Djibouti, Sudan, Kenya, Eritrea, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Dubai and some Far Eastern countries are also involved in the illicit fishing trade.

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