Growing sea pollution in Somaliland: A critical problem in the lives of the People and Biodiversity

washed oil to onshore in Batalaale beach, Berbera


Growing evidences of marine/sea pollution have constantly been noticed in Berbera coast and the entire country’s coastline at large. Reliable sources to mention but not limited to the local press have incessantly shared some videos, pictures and other related evidences that show clear pollution in Berbera coast where substantial flocks of oil are found at onshore. This oil was unleashed out by certain foreign ship, and it has resulted into physical changes of the seawater and at the same time stemming from biological and chemical changes of seawater. This unleashed oil is very harmful to human feet and perhaps may cause skin diseases. To curb this however, the ship(s) that has done this pollution can easily be identified and litigate if laborious is given.

washed oil to onshore in Batalaale beach, Berbera


Alarming to mention, it is not the first time that such kind of environmental tribulations are encountered; discernable evidences are normally seen in   Sanaag and Sahil coast whereby toxic waste materials are exposed to onshore zones of Somaliland coast by natural cyclones that hit our coast once a while. The last tragedy was the toxic cylinder that was found in Harshaw coast onshore two years back.

waste cylinder found at Harshaw beach, Harshaw

However, this is a very furious issue that needs an urgent intervention from the Government of Somaliland.  Oil spillage into sea is not the only pollution catastrophe we encounter but also to mention hazardous wastes namely radioactive wastes that are normally dumped into our marine ecosystems by reckless foreign ships. This in turn detrimentally affects the health of the people and impedes the marine biodiversity. Notably seafood, which can be considered a potential food reserve for future generations, is being jeopardized by such growing marine pollution incidents.

Apparently, terrestrial environment resources in Somaliland have been suffering from cyclic droughts, climate change and growing concern of carrying capacity of land resources, these factors have put at risk future food security in our country, but the untapped marine resources(seafood) that is considered potential food reserves for future generations are now endangered  by these growing marine pollutions.

It is clear as mud that the waste dumping activities into Somaliland coast is inexorable as long as there is absence of capacitated institutions that are able to properly supervise the foreign fishing firms. Some of the fishing firms/fishers operating in Somaliland and Somali coast at large are not only there for fishing purposes but pursue other veiled intentions which perhaps my include spying, indiscriminate dumping of  radioactive and toxic wastes and bottom-trawling that hampers on sustainability of biodiversity and seafood at large. In the face of these events, the

problem is outsize than what it is thought. The dumped wastes are perilous that is why these fisher groups tend to take off these toxic wastes from their respective countries into this fragile state.  This is unacceptable in accordance to International Environmental Laws.There are international precautionary and trans-boundary environmental protection laws and Protocols about preservation of environment particularly marine environment which is critically vulnerable yet important in human life. It is not allowed by certain state/ foreign firm to shift waste materials from one country to another and dump it there. RIO declaration (1992) says “polluters causing trans- frontier pollution should be subjected to legal and statutory provisions no less severe than those which would apply for any equivalent pollution occurring within their country.  Meanwhile, the discharge of toxic wastes into sea has been overly discussed in many conventions and resolutions include the Stockholm Conference(2001) where declaration is set out about waste discharge into sea emphasizing on discharge of toxic substances or of other substances and the release of heat, in such quantities or concentrations as to exceed the capacity of the environment to render them harmless, must be halted in order to ensure that serious or irreversible damage is not inflicted upon ecosystems.


These fisher groups however, can be taken to both local and international courts of law if laborious are given on their haunt pollution activities by the Government of Somaliland. Most of them have been illegally utilizing potential fish resources in Somaliland coast yet conducting bottom trawling and by-catch fishing practices. These fishing practices are not allowed internationally as they destruct biodiversity of aquatic species. Unfortunately for those who have the onus to conserve marine resources haven’t been peering into such issues moreover the coast is important for the livelihood of thousands of people.


The Likely Effects Of These Pollution Activities


Apparently these growing pollution activities which include oil spillage into the sea, burying of toxic materials into the sea, and other concealed pollution activities that take place across Somaliland coast impair aquatic species in the seawater as it affects organisms both from internal exposure to these wastes through ingestion or inhalation and from external exposure through skin and eye irritation. Oil can also smother some small species of fish or invertebrates and coat feathers and fur, reducing birds and mammals ability to maintain their body temperatures thus resulting in death to numerous aquatic species hence biodiversity extinction.


In turn, these growing pollution activities in Somaliland do impede on habitats and perturb the ecosystem in the seawater. More important yet, there are health problems that associate with such pollutions and adversely affect human health through skin rush, skin irritation, asthma, cataracts, cardiovascular diseases and mutation to human beings when they get into contact. Understanding  such  health  implications  depend  upon  the  chemical  substances  that  the pollutants contain.

However, marine/sea pollution is far critical than land pollution as it poses both immediate and cumulative hazardous effects to human beings. For instance, when a person eats contaminated fish with these toxic pollutants, it may cause brain damage and disorder the biological genes in the long run. Also if these toxic wastes leak into water, it alters the chemical and biological composition of water by reducing dissolved oxygen in water and chemical equilibrium of the water body and this consequently causes aquatic species’ extinction and significant economic loss of both the government and the local people. Local people are therefore may not be in position to fetch more fish from the sea, because most of the fish species have either died or escaped away and this ultimately stagnates their livelihood.


Relevant Government institutions namely Ministries of Interior, Fishing and Environment and Natural Resource Management should work hand in hand to avert any sort of sea/ marine pollution which could be incurred by the foreign fishermen. Police at coasts should be increased in numbers and fully capacitated to be able to carry out surfeit surveillance across the coast, and supervise foreign fishers about their operations.  Also adequate salaries must be given to them so that they can desist from the “cancer of corruption and bribery” that might ruin their activities consequently promoting vandalism of our marine resources by foreign fishermen. Also Research and laboratory stations should be established by the Government for research and experimental analysis on various chemical substances that may be found in our sea.

Sharmaarke Abdi Musse

However, Peace and Prayer

By: Sharmaarke Abdi Musse

Researcher and University Lecturer



The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Horndiplomat editorial policy.

If you want to submit an opinion piece or an analysis please email it to

Leave a Reply