Somaliland releases 15 Yemeni fishing boats and crew [Archives:2006/934/Local News]

April 3 2006

SANA'A, April 2 ) An official Yemeni agency reported that Somaliland released 15 Yemeni fishing boats and their crew. According to Yemen's Saba News Agency, the boats were seized in the Barbara seaport on the pretext that they were fishing in Somaliland waters.

Yemen and Somaliland exchanged accusations last month when the independent breakaway republic accused Yemen of fishing in its territorial waters. To the contrary, Yemen said Somali pirates kidnapped the Yemeni fishing boats and their fishermen on a fishing journey in Yemen's territorial waters.

Somaliland later confessed that its forces seized several Yemeni fishermen and their boats. Somaliland's coast guard intercepted eight Yemeni boats – across the Gulf of Aden's rich fishing waters – under a campaign to enforce territorial sovereignty. Nine Yemeni boats were seized in February and their 84 crewmen deported.

Officials from Somaliland's capital, Hargiesa, visited Sana'a last month to discuss regional developments and solve the fishing dispute. A local newspaper reported Sunday, March 26, that Yemen and Somaliland signed a cooperation agreement on the fishing industry and fishing rights.

The agreement includes deals on fishery cooperation, particularly regarding information exchange, investment, organizing fishing processes and offering training opportunities to Somali workers. Yemeni Fisheries Minister Mahmoud Ibrahim Saghiri signed the agreement with Somaliland's Minister of Fisheries and Ports, Saeed Mohammad Raji.

Saghiri said the deal will solve many problems, stressing that his ministry is interested in strengthening fishing industry economic and trade ties, as well as working together to stop piracy in the Red Sea.

A former British protectorate in northwestern Somalia, Somaliland split from the rest of Somalia following a bloody civil war and the 1991 fall of Mohamed Siad Bare. The region's citizens declared the independent Republic of Somaliland in May 1991, which now includes six of Somalia's 18 administrative regions, roughly the region between Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and the Gulf of Aden with an area of approximately 137,600 square kilometers.

Although not recognized by any government, Somaliland has maintained a stable existence with an elected president, Parliament and security services. It is argued that these achievements – without external help or intervention – are proof for others to recognize it as an independent nation.