Somalia’s 3,333 kilometer coastline is the largest in mainland Africa and endows the country with considerable marine resources.  Its maritime zone possesses one of the most important large marine ecosystems—the Somali Current Marine Ecosystems—in the Indian Ocean. The country is also to numerous endemic species—i.e., species that can be found nowhere else in the world—including six types of birds, mammals, and reptiles. 

Somalia Map – Source: Somalia MEDA

The Republic of Somalia, located in the Horn of Africa, covers a total surface area of 637,657 km2 with an estimated population of 10 million people from six (6) major clans and various minor clans. The coastline of Somalia can be divided up into 5 zones characterised by diverse coastal features and ecosystems. Ecologically, the coast is split into two distinct zones: (i) the Gulf of Aden which encompasses the Somaliland and northern Puntland coastline, and (ii) the Indian Ocean coastline of northern Puntland and Central and South Somalia. The coastline covers a distance of 3,330 Km. The continental shelf area (depth 0–200 m) covers a surface area of 32,500 Km2 . The continental shelf is generally narrow being around 15km wide with a steep drop off into the deeper water. However, between Ras Aseyr and Ras Hafun in the north-east coast, the shelf extends for almost 80km in some places. (Source: Somalia MEDA)

The Somali marine ecosystem is rich in a diversity of living resources. Dynamic oceanographic features attract migratory tuna, billfishes, and sharks. Warm tropical waters nurture coral reef systems that are home to hundreds of species of marine life, and highly productive open waters support schooling pelagic creatures such as sardines and squid. Yet Somali domestic fisheries are significantly under-capitalized when compared with those of neighboring countries in East Africa. Development of the fishery sector during the 1980s stalled after Somalia’s civil war began in 1991, and the catch of marine life by domestic fleets has remained moderate ever since. Recently, interest in developing Somali fisheries has grown within multiple groups: fishers, entrepreneurs, and politicians within Somalia; expatriate communities outside Somalia and Somaliland; international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and development agencies; the global fishing industry; and venture capital firms specializing in frontier and emerging markets.

Coastal Livelihoods Assessment (Source: Somalia MEDA)

I. Small-Scale Fisheries
  • 50 fishing centres and an estimated 30,000 people from coastal communities engaged
  • Exports of fishery products only account for around 3% of total exports and contribute about 2% to GDP
  • Fishers earning $1.5 USD per day during monsoon season and an estimated $40 USD per day during the fishing season.
II. Tourism
  • Somalia long scenic coastline, rich biodiversity and favourable climate make it an ideal region for future tourism development.
  • Its close proximity to the Middle East, along with its historic Islamic culture, also make it a convenient destination for nearby travellers.
  • Security in Somalia is inevitably a constraint on tourism in the country’s coastal zone as well as weak infrastructure, limited institutional capacity and the reluctance of NGOs to operate has severely constrained development in the sector
III. Mariculture
  • No mariculture activities taking place in the country.
  • Given the extensive coastline and strong tradition of utilizing and consuming marine products in the coastal zone, there is no reason why this kind of development should not be as attractive
IV. Agriculture and Forestry
  • 64% of GDP, agriculture and forestry is the most dominant sector in Somalia.
  • Animal exports account for about 60% of Somalia’s employment opportunities, generating about 40% of GDP and 80% of foreign currency earnings.
  • Livestock is the main source of income and employment for the majority of the Somali population, 
  • Droughts, fluctuating environmental conditions and market volatility all have a great impact on the people and
    the economy.
  • Acacia and Commiphora shrub and woodland habitat are widespread in the country and are extensively utilized
    for a variety of purposes
  • Deforestation is, however, a significant problem in the northern areas and the Jubba Valley.
  • Mangroves remain important, valued at around $91 million USD.
  • Policies for coastal zone management have been promoted. 
V. Energy
  • Little activity in oil, gas and biofuels in Somalia
  • 200 billion cubic feet of proven gas reserves
  • Security has been identified as the challenge. Governance and capacity also remains constrained and a lack of basic infrastructure throughout the country
  • An effective government in Somaliland could potentially be conducive to sectoral development in the region. Oil sector development could also be supportive of employment and contribute to the development of infrastructure
VI. Ports and Coastal Transport
  • 4 major ports in Somalia
  • Ports and shipping remain constrained by the present security situation
VII. Coastal Mining
  • Deposits of tin-tantalum in Puntland, simpsonite in Berbera, and deposits of salt and gemstone throughout the country
  • Country’s security situation has inevitably constrained any mining activity in the region


List of Publications on Somalia

No Name of Publication Year of publication Author

Somali National Report to the Scientific Committee of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission


Abdirahim Ibrahim Skeik Heile


Women of the Blue Economy – Gender Equity and Participation in the Management of Water Resources: Lessons from the Coast of Kenya and Somalia


Comitato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo dei Popoli (CISP)


Rebuilding Resilient and Sustainable Agriculture in Somalia


Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)World Bank


Aid Flows in Somalia – Analysis of aid flow data


Office of Prime Minister Federal Republic of Somalia


National Marine Ecosystem Diagnostic Analysis (MEDA) – Somalia


Somalia GovernmentUnited Nations Development Programme (UNDP)Global Environment Facility (GEF)


Assessment of Energy, Water and Waste Reduction Options for the proposed AMISOM HQ Camp in Mogadishu, Somalia and the Support Base in Mombasa, Kenya


United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)


Monitoring of Mangroves in Somalia (Puntland, Somaliland and South Central Somalia)


Mumuli S. OAlim MOduoriG


Feasibility Report on the Fisheries Sector in Puntland




The State of the Environment in Somalia – A desk study


United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)


The Indian Ocean Coast of Somalia




Coastal and Marine Problems of Somalia. UNEP Regional Seas Reports and Studies No. 84


United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)