At least 15 European and Arab fishing boats have been seized by the authorities in Puntland, a semi-autonomous province in northern Somalia.  As Katy Migiro reports for VOA from Nairobi, efforts are being made to find out how many fisherman are being held and under what conditions. 

Authorities in Puntland say they seized the boats and arrested the fisherman in Puntland's territorial waters. 

Reports on Thursday said the vessels were taken by pirates, but on Friday Andrew Mwangura, of Kenya's Seafarers Assistance Program, said between 15 and 17 boats were seized by Puntland security officials during the last week. The majority of the boats are from European and Arab countries.

Mwangura says there are many questions to be answered, such as why the International Maritime Organization (IMO) was not informed of the arrests.

"Is it true that they were fishing illegally in Puntland's territorial waters? And if so, why the has Puntland authority not reported this matter to flag state of the vessel and why the has Puntland authority not reported the matter to the IMO and the FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization, according to the international law of the sea?" he asked.

Mwangura says his main concern is the welfare of the seafarers as they may have run out of food and water on their boats.

"We are informed that they are still on board the vessels and according to the information the situation down there is not good, because there is no proper supply of food, ships stores and water in Somalia," he added.  "So they are using what they have on board. Most of the vessels are small. Maybe they have run out of supply."

Officials of the Seafarers Assistance Program say they plan to pressure authorities in Puntland to allow the fisherman to return to their homes.