Scholarly article on topic 'Characterization of fisheries management in Yemen: A case study of a developing country׳s management regime'

Characterization of fisheries management in Yemen: A case study of a developing country׳s management regime Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Natheer Alabsi, Teruhisa Komatsu

Abstract The nature of small-scale fisheries is frequently described as complex. This complexity is particularly true for the least developed countries, such as Yemen, in which natural resources management is challenged by rapid population growth, high unemployment rates, and chronic underdevelopment. This study presents the current fisheries management regime and analyzes its components to examine how appropriate the current strategy is in addressing conservation needs while sustaining the socio-economic benefits obtained from fisheries. The weak enforcement and low compliance and the widespread illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, suggest the need to restructure the fisheries management system. Moreover, for any future policy reforms, it will be necessary to consider introducing appropriate anti-corruption measures and policies to improve transparency and accountability. The fishery managers need also to adopt the precautionary approach widely, using the best available information, until results from research become available.

Academic research paper on topic "Characterization of fisheries management in Yemen: A case study of a developing country׳s management regime"

Marine Policy 50 (2014) 89-95


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Characterization of fisheries management in Yemen: A case study of a developing country's management regime

Natheer Alabsi * Teruhisa Komatsu

Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, 5-1-5, Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-8564, Japan


The nature of small-scale fisheries is frequently described as complex. This complexity is particularly true for the least developed countries, such as Yemen, in which natural resources management is challenged by rapid population growth, high unemployment rates, and chronic underdevelopment. This study presents the current fisheries management regime and analyzes its components to examine how appropriate the current strategy is in addressing conservation needs while sustaining the socioeconomic benefits obtained from fisheries. The weak enforcement and low compliance and the widespread illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, suggest the need to restructure the fisheries management system. Moreover, for any future policy reforms, it will be necessary to consider introducing appropriate anti-corruption measures and policies to improve transparency and accountability. The fishery managers need also to adopt the precautionary approach widely, using the best available information, until results from research become available. © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-SA

license (



Article history: Received 12 March 2014 Received in revised form 13 May 2014 Accepted 13 May 2014



Small-scale fisheries Fisheries management IUU fishing

Compliance and enforcement

1. Introduction

While most of the world fish production originates in the developing countries [1], fisheries management in these countries adopts the same methods of fisheries management used for large stocks in the developed countries [2]. Policy makers do not search for alternative approaches and they think that the only way to manage the fishery is to conduct formal stock assessments [3]. This has resulted in mismanagement of most of these fisheries. Policy makers, scientists and fishery managers should realize the different scales and nature of the small-scale fishery, the context in which it operates and try to develop management systems suitable to the context of these fisheries.

Fisheries management in Yemen until 1999 was the responsibility of the fisheries department of the Ministry of Agriculture before the establishment of the Ministry of Fish Wealth (MFW). The authorities' policy has been development-oriented, in which high emphasis is placed on the economic benefits gained from the fishery. Throughout the past 20 years, the fisheries policy has encouraged investments in the fisheries sector, increase in fish production, and the development of the fishing industry [4]. While the policy encourages sustainable

* Corresponding author. Permanent address: Faculty of Marine Science and Environment, Hodeidah University, B. O. BOX 3114, Algameaa Street, Hodeidah, Yemen. Tel.: +81 90 8485 4464.

E-mail addresses: (N. Alabsi), (T. Komatsu).

use of fisheries resources, no detailed fishery management plans (FMPs) or operational objectives exist to address policy objectives. Moreover, planning and policymaking is practised without proper knowledge of the resources [5]. During the last few years, the authorities started to transfer management responsibilities from the central level to the local level and has already established local fisheries authorities to be responsible for fisheries management at the local level. This restructuring is part of the decentralization process aimed to improve management of the sector. However, transfer of responsibilities is said to be slow [6].

The aim of this paper is to analyze the overall management of the sector, critically review the existing legislative, policy and regulatory frameworks, the compliance and enforcement mechanisms, and the impacts that these arrangements have on the nature and extent of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The paper proceeds, first, by describing the fisheries management from a developing country perspective, with emphasis given to the inherent problems and recommendations on the approaches, which fit their context. Second, it gives a description of the context in which fisheries in Yemen operate, details the contributions that the fisheries made to the society and to the economy, and the problems arise from both outside and inside the sector. It also presents the historical development of the fishery, distinguishes the two small and large-scale subsectors, and describes the key fish species of the fishery. Then it describes the fisheries management in Yemen, with emphasis given to the policy and regulatory frameworks and how appropriate these tools are. This is followed

0308-597X/© 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-SA license (

by a description of the compliance and enforcement tools in both the small and industrial subsectors. Finally, the paper presents the current status of IUU fishing, its different types, situations where it occurs and the drivers and incentives behind its occurrence.

2. Fisheries management in a developing country context

In the typical context of fisheries in developing countries, management has been challenging due to the complex nature of the inherent social-ecological systems [7,8]. These are frequently described as labor intensive, multi-species and multi-gear fisheries sparsely distributed along the coast and associated with high levels of community dependence [9-11]. In such a context, it is difficult to control fishermen's behavior or to enforce regulations [12].

In the northwest Indian Ocean, fisheries management is characterized by the following four factors [13]: (a) the almost total absence of comprehensive stock assessments of major exploited marine resources upon which to base management decisions, combined with a generally poor statistical database on landings (and their composition) and fishing effort; (b) the regional and shared nature of many of the fish stocks that is in contrast to the poorly developed institutions for regional management; (c) the development orientation of national fisheries legislation and policy in most countries despite the apparent over- or fully-exploited status of many fish stocks; and (d) a general lack of success at the regional and national level in measuring and controlling fishing capacity, particularly in the large and important artisanal sector.

In the developing countries, poor management arises in part from the governance or policy-making authorities, in which the lack of the political capacity or will affects the quality of the fisheries management [14]. In these cases, the stakeholders are rarely considered in planning or in decision making which results in low compliance with the regulations. Besides, cases where monitoring and/or enforcement of the regulations is limited create incentives which favor non-compliance [15]. Moreover, the management authorities in most developing countries lack the capacity to prepare fishery management plans and this is due to the lack of the necessary expertise and essential fund for research, monitoring and enforcement.

The approach of fishery managers to conservation and management in developing countries frequently appears to be driven by the perceived need for stock assessment, rather than by the need to implement the most effective management regime possible, based on what is feasible and affordable, given the nature of the fishery and the human resources available [3,16]. This mismatch partially arises from the fact that the fishery managers and scientists were educated in the west or received training on management approaches used in the developed countries [2,3], which are research intensive and requires substantial fund beyond the capacity of most developing countries and finally these approaches do not necessarily fit the context of fisheries of the developing countries. The provisions of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries as they relate to the uncertainties and the lack of data in the developing countries, recommend adopting the precautionary approach to fisheries management [17]. Management tools within this suggested approach do not require much data to formulate, are easy to monitor and easy to enforce with limited expertise and funding requirements. The code also stresses the importance of research and capacity building for those countries.

Scientists from the developed countries increasingly acknowledge the failure of fisheries management [18-20]. They further express their concern that the science they have produced may not serve the needs of small stocks in many developing countries [2,3]. In searching for innovative approaches, they called upon a multi-disciplinary approach which takes into account the social, economic and ecological systems in which these fisheries occur [21-25]. In this stream, community-based management or participatory management has

grown out of developing country needs, and has involved stakeholders as partners in fisheries management [3,16,26]. Developing countries should search for suitable cost-effective management approaches. Taking into account the fast population growth in these countries, it is necessary to realize that the resources at some point in time will fall short and will not be capable of delivering the same benefits to this growing population. Therefore, it is necessary to adopt sustainable management approaches and this inevitably requires to gradually reduce dependence on the resources.

3. Fisheries status and historical development

Yemen is located in the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula and is bounded by 2520 km of coastline that extends along the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Arabian Sea. The fisheries sector is considered to be particularly important due to the social and economic benefits it provides to coastal communities and the wider community. At both national and local levels, fisheries contribute to food security, employment, domestic income, foreign exchange earnings, and fiscal revenues. The fishing industry is dominated by the small-scale sector, which currently supports the livelihoods of an estimated 83,157 small-scale fishermen and 583,625 of their dependants, for a total of about 667,000 people [27,28]. In addition, an unknown but relatively a large number of people are also engaged in post-harvest processing, marketing, and value addition [4]. The fisheries sector contributed 1.9% of Yemen's $26.24 billion gross domestic product in 2009 [29]. After oil exports, fisheries constitute the second largest export earner and account for 1.5% of the national labor force, supporting the livelihoods of 3.2% of the national population [30]. The fisheries industry, with its largely rural location, remains the largest if not the sole source of income for coastal communities [29].

The major challenges hindering economic development in Yemen include political instability, a lack of security, and widening areas of conflicts [31]. Within the fisheries sector, poor governance, the absence of appropriate legislation, and inadequate infrastructure have been major problems [32] that undermine the social and economic contributions of the fisheries sector. Recently, frequent fuel and electricity shortages, paired with subsequent price increases, have increased hardship among fishermen [33]. Widespread piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea has been a major concern and has restricted productivity of fishermen from these areas [27,30]. According to the Yemeni government figures released in July 2009, piracy in the Gulf of Aden has cost the country an estimated $200 million in lost fishing revenue and associated revenue [34].

Moreover, Yemen has the world's fourth fastest growing population (3.0% in 2013) [35] and the corresponding increase in unemployment rates (17.8% in 2010; 29% in 2012) [36] will pose more threats to the already overexploited fishery resources and will cause further damage to the important coastal habitats. A national assessment carried out by the United Nations Development Program in 2010 to assess progress in Yemen toward achieving Millennium Development Goals found that Yemen is unlikely to achieve most of the Goals by 2015 due to chronic underdevelopment, security problems, and a lack of financial resources [33].

Recently, a new national fisheries strategy (2012-2025) has been formulated and has identified fisheries as a potential sector to food security and to create more employment opportunities [30]. The strategy has identified short-term, mid-term, and long-term objectives and a timeframe to achieve these objectives. This strategy and its announced objectives acknowledge the major uncertainty of the sector, in which production estimates are highly uncertain and the stock status of most species is unknown. However, the strategy did not prioritize objectives nor did it introduce practical solutions to the major obstacles encountered in the sector, particularly the poor governance and uncertainty of the overall performance of the sector.

Moreover, the strategy did not account for the high vulnerability and low resilience inherent in fisheries resources in general.

Prior to unification in 1990, the two separate entities of Yemen pursued different fisheries development policies; while the state in the north adopted a policy of supporting artisanal sector development, the state in the south pursued a policy of supporting large-scale industrial fishing [37]. After unification, the authorities encouraged a policy of supporting the artisanal sector development and gradually eliminated the agreements with the industrial fleets. As a result, the number of fishermen and fishing boats has increased rapidly and production estimates reached a peak of 256,300 t in 2004 before dropping to 130,591 1 in 2008 [28]. The catch per unit of effort (CPUE) has simultaneously decreased with time [28,38,39].

In the absence of proper governance, industrial fleets have caused not only fish stock depletion but also major destruction to fish habitats [40,41 ]. In line with the announced fisheries strategy that gives preference to the artisanal sector, new licenses for industrial vessels have not been granted since 2004. Currently, there is no licensed industrial fishing in Yemen and there are only a few coastal fishing fleets with illegal licenses in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, some of which operate with artisanal licenses. Industrial fleets are registered to fish for almost all different kinds of fish, including pelagic fish. However, reporting of catches have never included any pelagic fish. Moreover, it is believed that these trawlers are poaching significant quantities of tuna and tuna-like species. Furthermore, significant quantities of fish are being captured illegally by unlicensed industrial fleets; these fish are being transferred directly to other countries [32,42].

Due to the limited employment opportunities available to the coastal inhabitants, increased domestic demand, and the open-access nature of fisheries, the number of fishermen has increased rapidly. Moreover, the return of one million expatriates from Saudi Arabia after the 1991 gulf crisis [43] has also added to the numbers of workers entering artisanal fishing [40,41]. Subsequently, fishermen numbers have increased three-fold between 1990 and 2010 [28]. Most of the recent growth has occurred in the Red Sea region where both fishermen and fishing boats numbers have increased four-fold between 2000 and 2010 [28]. This rapid growth in the past decade is attributed, in part, to changes in national policy that have led to a reduction of the industrial fleet.

Fish exports have witnessed significant increases and reached 110,000 t in 2010, which is nearly 58% of the total fish production [28]. This increase is attributed to the sector's increased productivity and increased compliance with international standards of quality control. Despite the recent decrease in total catch compared with 10 years ago, fish exports have increased constantly; this increase seems to occur at the expense of local consumption and has caused significant increases in fish prices in local markets [44].

Artisanal fishing accounts for well over 90% of the total production [27]. The key fisheries resources, shown in Table 1, include pelagic fishery for tuna and tuna-like species and demersal fishery for fish, cuttlefish, shrimp, and lobster. Tuna and tuna-like species and cuttlefish are prevalent in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, whereas demersal fish are more abundant in the Red Sea.

Key pelagic species include yellowfin tuna, longtail tuna, little tuna, narrow-barred Spanish mackerel, Indian mackerel, anchovy, and sharks; key demersal fish species include emperors, groupers, snappers, and jacks [27,32]. Despite the lack of comprehensive stock assessment studies and reliable catch statistics, it is believed that most fish stocks, except small pelagic species for which there is no market demand, are either fully exploited or overexploited [37]; interviews with fishermen and different stakeholders confirm these beliefs. Cuttlefish (Sepia pharaonis) has been harvested since 1967 by industrial fleets in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea region. The intensive trawling on their spawning aggregations has led to over-fishing and a major decline of the fishery by 1982-1983 with

reported annual landings falling from around 9000 to 1500 t. Landings of the rock lobster (Panulirus homarus) virtually collapsed to near zero in the late 1990s from peaks of around 4001 in the early part of the decade. This collapse was attributed to the widespread use of nets rather than traps to capture lobsters [37]. Large-scale harvest of sea cucumbers started in 2003 with the advent of air compressors, which facilitated diving; this process led, a few years later, to the collapse of the fishery [45].

Many important demersal fish stocks and some pelagic species, such as Indian mackerel [41], narrow-barred Spanish mackerel, and sharks [40,46], have experienced severe overfishing and their production levels have been beyond the maximum sustainable yields. The lack of FMPs, widespread IUU fishing, uncontrolled growth of fishing effort, and weak compliance and enforcement arrangements have led to significant economic losses associated with the suboptimal use of the resources, which has in turn resulted from weak and ineffective governance and subsequent overfishing.

Small-scale fishermen typically use two types of fishing boats: small fiberglass boats called huris, 7-16 m long, with outboard engines and 2-6 crew members, and larger wooden boats called sambuks, 10-20 m long, with inboard or outboard engines and with a crew from 10 up to 25 or more [4,27]. Huris were traditionally used for single day trips in inshore waters, within 40 km of the shore [4]. However, due to overfishing and decreasing CPUE, and increasing operation costs (particularly fuel prices), fishermen tend to spend longer (up to 10 days) at sea in an attempt to harvest more catch to get a better return on their investments. Sambuks are used for longer trips ranging from a few days to three weeks [4,27].

Fishing is highly seasonal, with activity restricted by the monsoon winds (the northeast winter monsoon ranges from November to February and the southwest summer monsoon ranges from June to September) [4]. As a result, fishermen tend to relocate their fishing activities [5] or shift their fishing gear to target different species. Shifting of either fishing gear or target species is also frequent with seasonal changes in fish production; fishermen shift when the fishery is not profitable and return when it is profitable again. For example, fishermen targeting demersal fish along the Red Sea typically shift to cuttlefish following a decrease in demersal fish catches.

4. Assessment of the current status of fisheries management

Fisheries management usually must have a policy framework which sets objectives to achieve and mechanisms to follow in decision-making. Next, it must have a suite of laws and regulations to control stakeholders' behavior. Finally, it must have an enforcement power to ensure compliance and implementation of these rules in practice. How appropriate these tools are to a specific fishery, will determine the type and success of the resulted management.

4.1. Legal, policy, and regulatory framework

The stated objectives of the fisheries sector include protection of fish resources and the environment, the encouragement and regulation of investments in fishing and marketing, provision of post-harvest facilities, setting measures and norms to regulate fishing with a gradual replacement of industrial fishing by artisanal fishing, and the encouragement of aquaculture investments. Despite these stated objectives, the policy during the past three decades has been development-oriented and has centered on encouraging investment in fisheries exploitation and increasing fish production. To ensure sustainable resource conservation and management, the fishery should have an effective legal and administrative framework and an appropriate compliance and enforcement tools to ensure the subsequent implementation of the legislation.

Table 1

Key species in the artisanal fishery and their contribution in catch and value in 2012

Fish Group Species Catch (tons) % of total Value (USD, in millions) % of total Group total (tons) % of total

Large Pelagics Yellowfin tuna 35669 15.6 149.7 27.828 67178 29.38

Longtail tuna 4823 2.1 18.9 3.512

Little tuna 6823 3.0 28.6 5.323

King fish 6033 2.6 25.3 4. 707

Cobia 613 0.3 2.6 0.478

Spotted shark 13217 5.8 46.2 8.593

Small Pelagics Indian mackerel 14708 6.4 17.1 3.187 70448 30.81

Spined anchovy 55740 24.4 65.0 12.080

Demersal Fish Charcoal grouper 2826 1.2 9.2 1.715 11724 5.13

Snapper 4930 2.2 14.7 2.735

Gold band fusilier 3968 1.7 13.9 2.580

Multi-species Other kinds 61552 26.9 100.4 18.673 61552 26.92

Crustacean Painted spiny lobster 122 0.1 0.9 0.169 1918 0.84

Shrimp 1624 0.7 8.3 1.549

Crabs 172 0.1 0.2 0.037

Cephalopods Cuttlefish 15679 6.9 36.5 6.796 15685 6.86

Octopus 6 0.0 0.0 0.003

Sea Cucumber Sea cucumber 29 0.0 0.1 0.025 29 0.01

Multi-species Other kinds 121 0.1 0.1 0.016 121 0.05

Total Total 228,655 537.8

The regulation of exploitation of fish resources is controlled by the law no. 2 of 2006, which, when issued, canceled the law no. 42 of 1991 and the law no. 43 of 1997. This law prescribes the requirements of fishing boats with regards to fishing, specifies the powers of the minister and the competences of the MFW, the competences of the branches of the MFW in coastal cities (currently contained within the Fisheries Authorities), and specifies the requirements of coastal and industrial vessels and the penalties for violations of the provisions of this law.

Fishing vessels are classified according to boat length and engine power. An artisanal boat can have a length up to 21 m and outboard engine up to 150 hp; coastal boats can be up to 40 m with outboard engines up to 1100 hp. Industrial boats can be up to 70 m with outboard engines up to 3000 hp. To reduce conflicts among different categories of fishing vessels, the law has specified different areas for each vessel category. The first 5 miles from the coast is allocated to artisanal boats, beyond 5 miles for coastal boats and beyond 12 miles for industrial boats.

FMPs addressing different key species are lacking, which is due, in part, to limited knowledge about resources. This lack of knowledge results from the limited human and institutional capacity in terms of developing species-specific management plans. There are very few management measures with provisions provided for in the fisheries legislation. Closed seasons, where fishing is prohibited, are the most widely used management measures to protect and conserve the most important commercial species. Closed seasons are currently used to manage shrimp, rock lobster, and cuttlefish resources [37].

Opening and closing of seasons are regularly announced by the MFW upon receiving the initial information and advice from the Marine Science and Biological Research Authority. The discarding of fish is prohibited in all fisheries. The collapse of the sea cucumber fishery led, in 2007, to a complete ban on the capture and trade of all sea cucumbers within the country [45].

Management measures related to the valuable rock lobster include minimum size of 19 cm, gear type is restricted to traps only, quantity of gear is restricted to 60 traps per boat, and a prohibition on the taking of egg-bearing lobsters. If egg-bearing lobsters are accidentally captured, they must be returned to the sea. Measures targeting pelagic species are lacking, except for a law prohibits the use of light when using purse seine nets.

While the power and ability to execute within the current legislation are given to the minister and the ministry, only minimal

action has been taken. Managing the fishery, issuing any urgent norms, or making any required reforms or amendments have been limited. For example, while the law gives the minister the right to issue the specifications pertaining to different fishing gear, fishing gear remains largely unregulated. No specifications have been made regarding net sizes, mesh sizes, the minimum sizes of different species allowed to catch, specific areas for different fishing gear, or sensitive areas where trawling is prohibited.

Even though the fisheries act (no. 2/2006) is relatively new, it does not seem to integrate many of the recent changes in international policy, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), FAO Compliance Agreement, UN Fish Stock Agreement, and the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. By signing these treaties, countries have agreed to adopt the new policy and have shown their commitment to address sustainable conservation and exploitation of marine resources to maintain their productivity for future generations. In order to ensure Yemen's commitment, the fisheries act is supposed to make the necessary amendments in the fisheries governing laws to meet these emerging fisheries policies. It is necessary that the fisheries law be broadly based on the precautionary approach, particularly in the case of least developed countries such as Yemen where the status of most fish stocks is unknown and funds for research are lacking. During the last two decades, aquaculture development, though stressed in policy, did not make any progress and the lack of aquaculture legislative framework has been one of the major obstacles to aquaculture development. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate these obstacles and make the necessary legislative and regulatory reforms to address these issues.

4.2. Compliance and enforcement

Enforcement of regulations by the enforcement authorities is weak, which results in fishermen having a low compliance with regulations. Compliance and enforcement tools prescribed by the law include instruments for both artisanal and industrial fisheries. In the artisanal sector, monitoring is restricted to random dockside inspection and routine inspection at landing sites, although inspection is not strictly enforced. On-land enforcement tools include on-land observers and quality observers.

The tasks allocated to the on-land observers include reporting of illegal fishing gear, reporting of unlicensed fishing boats, illegal fishing during the closed seasons, capture of illegal species or sizes, unloading at unofficial landing sites, reporting of illegal means of

transporting fish, and reporting of any violations to the laws and regulations of the fishery.

Compliance and enforcement tools within the industrial fisheries include the requirement of the coastal and industrial boats to take onboard 2-4 observers, the use of Vessel Monitoring System, the real-time reporting of catches at sea, and the unloading of fish should be at specified ports in Yemen.

Coastal and industrial boats are required to keep logbooks, in the format specified by the MFW, to record the catch in terms of species and quantity, the coordinates of each of the fishing locations, and the depths and times spent fishing. However, logbooks are not used with the artisanal boats, even though the law entitles the MFW to ask artisanal boats larger than 15 m to keep logbooks to record the specifications of the catch.

Enforcement incentives provided for in the law are generally low and lack publicity. The law has specified a reward, 10% of the reported infringement, for any person detected and reported any violations to the laws and regulations of the fishery. However, reporting of violations still occurs infrequently, in part due to the lack of publicity of these rewards and a lack of trust in competent authorities.

The penalties are sometimes not severe enough to ensure compliance with and enforcement of regulations. Moreover, the fines are not prescribed for different levels of violations and sometimes do not differentiate between the artisanal and industrial fishing activities. The law did not empower to the MFW to judge on violations instead of lengthy court cases.

When it comes to companies and industrial fleets, sanctions for violations include provisions for the revocation or suspension of the authorization to fish and are sometimes as severe as the confiscation of the boat and its equipment. However, on-board observers and inspectors rarely report the violations and are sometimes forced not to report. If violations are indeed communicated to authorities, penalties are rarely enforced. Similarly, reporting of violations and enforcement of regulations is largely lacking within the small-scale sector, which affects compliance levels among fishermen. In fact, the level of compliance of fishermen with laws and regulations has been negatively affected by the widespread corruption in the policymaking authorities, in the judicial systems, and in everyday local administrations.

4.3. Present status of IUU fishing

It is obvious that fish stocks have been depleted in many areas in the world's oceans and seas due to poaching, smuggling, overfishing, and violation of local, regional, and international laws [47,48]. IUU fishing is most detrimental and most likely occurs in countries where governance is weak and corruption is rampant, such as most developing countries [49,50]. This widespread IUU fishing in many developing countries has several severe environmental, social, and economic consequences, including unfair competition, loss of biodiversity, loss of income, and even loss of human lives [48].

IUU fishing is a major issue and a source of serious concern for Yemeni fisheries. Such fishing undermines the contribution of fisheries to the food security, to income and livelihood and to the national economy. The widespread IUU fishing in Yemen is one of the major consequences of the weak governance reflected in the weak legislative, policy, and regulatory frameworks. There is no national plan to combat IUU fishing. Sanctions are not specified for different types of violations and, where stated, are not sufficient to act as deterrents with the level of violations. The drivers behind IUU fishing include the lack of political will to prevent, deter, and eliminate IUU fishing, low levels of fines, the absence of effective monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) activities, and the weak enforcement of the laws and the regulations.

IUU fishing in Yemen may occur in different forms. Illegal fishing practices within the small-scale sector include discarding of significant quantities of fish during bottom trawling and purse seining, the use of light when fishing using purse seines, the use of small-mesh nets, and the use of destructive fishing gear (particularly in sensitive habitats such as coral reef areas). In case of industrial fisheries, due to weak MCS systems, violations include operating in areas allocated for artisanal fishermen and causing destruction to their fishing gear, fishing during the closed season, transshipment at sea, under-reporting, discarding large quantities of fish, and unloading at ports unspecified by the managing authority. Moreover, significant poaching by unlicensed foreign trawlers and purse seiners has been reported.

Discarding of fish, despite it is banned, is widely practiced by both industrial and artisanal fisheries. It is associated with almost all activities of industrial fishing and with certain fishing gear in the artisanal sector. For example, the small-scale bottom trawl fishery for shrimp is usually associated with discards of large quantities of small and juvenile demersal fish several times larger than the target species [46].

The MFW reports that fishermen and/or the fisheries cooperatives tend to misreport catches to avoid paying the levy [27,32,46]. In one case study, which highlights the level of misreporting, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) estimated the catch for tuna and tuna-like species caught by artisanal boats in the year 2004 at around 42,000 t, which is five times higher than the official reported figures [51]. Under-reporting or non-reporting typically increases in remote areas where fish are sold directly to the traders or are sold in the sea to a receiving boat or sold at unofficial landing sites. Hence, the catch from these areas does not enter into the official statistics and production estimates from these areas are estimated only if transported to the main cities or from the export figures at export outlets. It is noteworthy that significant quantities of small or low-value fish are usually sold directly to traders originated from the countryside and that these quantities typically do not pass through the catch-collection system.

Landing sites along the Gulf of Aden are operated by the cooperatives that provide a wide range of services, including auctioning, marketing, facilities provision, maintenance, health care, and credit provision. However, cooperatives along the Red Sea are nonfunctional and provide far fewer services [52]. Landing sites and auction yards in remote areas do not have the necessary facilities such as ice plants, storage, and marketing services. Moreover, cooperatives in these areas typically are not active and fishermen membership rates are very low. These areas mostly lack basic infrastructure. As a result, fishermen refuse to pay the levies imposed by the authorities. These practices lead to significant losses on both sides; the fishermen side and the state side. Fishermen get paid less for their catch because the prices are under the control of the traders, who dictate the prices, and the state loses control over the data collection system and loses the levies. Furthermore, this process minimizes the funds available for fisheries management and belittles the economic potential of the fishery.

Due to the weak MCS systems, many foreign vessels used to fish illegally in the Yemeni waters and the catch from these vessels was typically transferred to the receiving country, where the catch was unloaded [42]. Until the process was stopped in 2004, industrial fishing was carried out according to the agreements signed with these fleets to fish in the Yemeni waters; however, many other foreign vessels are still frequently reported to illegally operate due to the low chances of being discovered and the weak enforcement of laws and regulations.

This practice of illegal transfer of the catch into or out of Yemen contributes significantly to the current uncertainty in catch statistics. Direct transfers from Yemen into other countries, mainly Egypt, were estimated in 1999 at up to 40,0001 per annum [46,53] and this

quantity typically did not enter into the official catch statistics. Moreover, a large quantity of fish originating from Eritrea is illegally transferred and sold in the Yemeni market, where market circumstances are better than in Eritrea [54]. However, no accurate estimates are available for this amount. This amount, regardless, will not significantly affect the total catch of Yemen because of the relatively small production estimate of Eritrea, which is currently between 4,000 and 12,0001 per year [55].

5. Conclusions

The Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries, the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and other international agreements have introduced management tools to improve fisheries management and combat IUU fishing. However, management strategies of the fisheries sector in Yemen are still beyond the mainstream of modern fisheries policy. The lack of FMPs is attributed to the weak knowledge base of the resources, which is reflected in the unreliable statistics and unknown stock status. The legislation provides the basis of penalties for violations and penalties have being relatively strengthened by issuing the law no. 2/2006. However, infringement is still common, compliance of fishermen is low or lacking, and enforcement of the laws and regulations is weak or absent. Although the law provides the minimum requirement to combat IUU fishing, the weak enforcement and prosecution procedures prevent the enforcement of the regulations and encourage non-compliance. The lack of compliance and enforcement reveals the poor governance of the sector and reflects the widespread corruption among the policymakers, fishery managers, enforcement officers, monitoring personnel, and judiciary authorities. Therefore, for any future policy reforms, it will be necessary to consider introducing appropriate anti-corruption measures and policies to improve transparency and accountability. Moreover, as the data on the resources are not available at the moment, the fishery managers need to adopt the precautionary approach widely, using the best available information, including that related to traditional and indigenous knowledge. When the results from the research become available, management plans can be modified accordingly.


The authors wish to express their appreciation to the staff of the Ministry of Fish Wealth, the National Information Center, and the Fisheries Authorities of the Republic of Yemen for providing the data, the legislations, and the reports used in this exploratory study. Finally, we thank a number of our colleagues for their suggestions on an early draft of this paper.


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