Climate change does not only affect Somalia’s nomads and farmers

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Bilan is Somalia’s first ever all-women media team. Staffed and run entirely by women with full editorial independence, the unit covers hard news and in-depth features, holding leaders to account and making sure the media represents all citizens, men and women, weak and powerful, rich and poor.

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Activists, researchers and journalists often focus on how climate change has affected the lives of nomads and settled farmers in Somalia. But another group is facing growing challenges because of the effects of global warming – the fishing community.

On an island in Lower Shabelle’s Jazira area, people who rely on fishing to make a living say their lives are much more difficult now, largely due to the impact of climate change.

Large quantities of sea foam were visible along the beach on the day Bilan visited the community. Fisherfolk were alarmed by this phenomenon because it suggested there was severe agitation in the sea water, probably caused by unusually strong winds.

The unexpected weather impeded their ability to go out fishing and threatened to damage the equipment they rely on for their livelihoods.

This prompted the Ministry of Fisheries to issue a warning about the effects of climate change.

Sheikh Maow Ali has been a fisherman for nearly 50 years. He says never in his lifetime has he seen waves of such magnitude. “Sometimes the wind swept our boats out to sea or caused them to sink in the middle of the ocean,” he said.

“We often have no fish when we return home at eight o’clock in the morning after going out to sea at four in the afternoon the previous day.”

Kasim Ahmed Noor has been fishing for four decades. “We used to catch fish near to the shoreline which was relatively easy. Now the shift in water levels has driven them far out to sea which makes it harder and more dangerous for us to catch them,” he says.

“I believe this is the result of climate change.”

The changing weather, its devastating impact on the marine environment and the poor quality of their boats and other equipment have led to increased deaths of fishermen at sea.

“This year we had monsoon-like conditions,” said Mr Noor. “I have never before seen such weather.”

The chairman of the island’s fisheries association Yusuf Hassan Mohamed said three local fishermen were recently seriously injured after their boat sank during a storm. Others were still missing at sea.

Yusuf Hassan Mohamed the chairman of the island’s fisheries association

Mr Mohamed said the spike in inflation cause by the long drought and the war in Ukraine has added to the fishermen’s problems because it has led to a large increase in the price of fuel. “They have to spend $250 to $300 on gasoline, fishing equipment and other supplies but they often return empty-handed,” he says.

Industrial scale fishing and processing and other aspects of the marine economy are considered a largely untapped potential in Somalia. But if climate change continues to have such a damaging impact on this sector, the likelihood of the blue economy improving the lives of Somalis will be diminished.