Fisheries Industry: Not doing so good [Archives:2007/1077/Business & Economy]

August 16 2007

By: Raidan Al-Saqqaf
[email protected]

Although Yemen has a long coastline stretching for over 2000 kilometers across the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Arab Sea, Yemen's marine wealth has been facing a number of obstacles towards proper utilization of this asset. Yemen's marine wealth is estimated at 850 thousand tones allowing the production of 350-400 thousand tones per annum to maintain sustainability; however, Yemen's annual production did not exceed 290 thousand tones, mainly generated through the unorganized fishing sector consisting of around 65.000 fishermen according to official numbers.

Furthermore, the remote governorate of Al-Mahara, which accommodates around 90,000 people (0.45 percent of population), is responsible for producing around 98.1 thousand tones of fisheries, estimated at over 41.5 percent of the country's total fisheries production, while other coastal governorates such as Hodieda and Aden are responsible for 9 percent and 4.9 percent of fisheries production respectively.

It is noted that Al-Mahara's fisheries production been growing in spite of the limited government interference and the underdeveloped financial and services infrastructure which might be offered to fishermen, apart from the non-existence of private-sector enterprising initiatives which can develop the fishing industry in the governorate. This fact indicates that Al-Mahara governorate has promising potential to further increase the production of fisheries, while showing the strong contrast with the production of other governorates.

Corrupt Ministry of Marine Wealth

A recent parliamentarian report accused the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Wealth of being the biggest obstacle against the development of the fisheries industry in Yemen, the report accuses the ministry of issuing and renewing licenses to local and foreign fishing companies to fish within 4 and 5 miles from the coast, in spite of an existing law which forbids issuing licenses for fishing companies within 21 miles from the coast. Marine experts indicate that shallow waters are breeding grounds for many types of fish as it protects them from sea currents, while fishing within this area is hazardous to the reproduction of fish and seriously diminishes the sustainability of marine wealth.

The report also listed many violations by the Ministry of Marine Wealth including the leasing of a research vessel, which was donated by an international donor to the center of Marine research, to a commercial fishing company, one of the companies which were granted licenses to fish within the forbidden fishing zone.

Complaints and reports of incidents where commercial fishing vessels have been shooting at local fishermen in territorial waters in order to scare them away, reports stated that at least one fisherman was killed and tens were injured of such incidents, many of which have been reported to the Ministry but no action has been taken by the Ministry to follow up or gather details in this regard.

Several sources at fishermen associations has accused the Ministry of conspiring against Yemeni fishermen, claiming that the Ministry is simply an agent working for International fishing companies, including Jordanian, Thai, and other Asian companies, however, they refused to give more information about such allegations.

MP demands a supreme council for fisheries

Member of Parliament AbdulKarim Shaiban has told media sources that he demands the set-up of a supreme council for fisheries which should have authority over the Ministry in order to 'rectify the wrongs' and administer the country's marine wealth, Shaiban held the Ministry responsible for the damage affecting the fishing industry and the inefficient management of the funds allocated to the Ministry.

He said: “Millions upon millions of dollars have been spent in order to build and reform this Ministry, but it is hopeless, the many organizations this Ministry has set up in order to undertake fishing activities and provide further funding for the government, so far the returns have been less than 0.25 percent and we are very disappointed to see all funds going to this Ministry going down the drain.”

He also added: “take for example Nashtun fishing port which coasted the government US$ 40 million, it was set up and funded after a detailed proposal that this port will revive fishing but the port has not been operational since construction.”

Say what?

The 2006-2010 third poverty reduction plan allocated over 32.3 billion Riyals as planned investments in the fisheries sector, including 10.5 billion Riyals of donor funds which are expected during the years 2006-2010. the largest chunk of these funds are allocated to the coastal development program which aims at providing government support for traditional and unorganized fishermen, using funds exceeding 13.3 billion Riyals over the span of four years.

Another 9.5 billion Riyals have been allocated to the Program for Fisheries development, a program with a scope limited to monitoring regional waters, buying more vessels and technical research equipment to know more about Yemen's ecological and marine wealth. While the third program was allocated 8.17 billion Riyals to research is basically a turnaround strategy that aims at providing a vision towards better economic management of fishing organizations and developing fishing ports as well as storage facilities.

The remaining amount goes to the ministry of marine wealth; it specifically states that it will be used in building more buildings, buying more vehicles, and, of course, acquiring a state-of-the-art information database.

Minister: I'll do better

Minister of Fisheries and Marine Wealth Mohammed Sagheri has promised the Parliament that he will look into the problems and issues within the Ministry that impede developing the fisheries industry, promising to implement all the suggestions the Parliament's report highlighted including implementing the fisheries law, which seemed to many Parliament Members as a good idea. The Yemen-Times has tried repetitively to contact the Ministry to verify several other allegations of corruption claimed by fishermen's associations, however, there was no cooperation from the Ministry's officials.