During their counter-piracy patrols off the coast of Somalia, EU NAVFOR sailors and marines will often take the opportunity to talk to Somali fishermen about the role of EU NAVFOR in the region.
During a recent patrol Spanish Marines from EU NAVFOR’s flagship, ESPS Galicia, met some Somali fishermen and after offering them some water, the Marines explained that since December 2008 EU NAVFOR has been protecting World Food Programme vessels that carry food to ports in Somalia, with over 1.5 million tonnes of food arriving safely for the Somali people.
The Marines explained that EU NAVFOR warships and aircraft also patrol the coast of Somalia to help prevent armed pirates attacking seafarers. As part of EU NAVFOR’s mandate, if a non-Somali fishing vessels is observed fishing in Somali waters, information will be gathered on the vessel and forwarded to EU authorities in Brussels. If deemed appropriate, action will then be taken to prosecute the owner of the fishing vessel.
An example of a successful prosecution of a fishing vessel was FV Greko 1, whose owner was fined $65,000 dollars in 2016 for fishing illegally in Somali waters. The prosecution was made possible after EU NAVFOR provided photographic and other evidence of the vessel fishing off the Somali coast.
Meetings between EU NAVFOR and Somali fishermen also help EU NAVFOR to better understand local concerns of the fishermen.
Thanks to the counter-piracy patrols and self-protection measures on board merchant ships armed pirate attacks have dropped significantly in recent years. In January 2011, 32 ships and 736 crew members were held for ransom by pirates. Today no ships or their crews are being held. That said, recent piracy-related events reinforce the need for vigilance in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.