Should illegal fishing be declared an act of piracy?

By Saalax Saciid Sabriye

While the world media gave great coverage of the Somali pirates capture of a commercial ship, the mainstream media ignored the fact that illegal fishing in Somali waters costs a sizable percentage of the country’s GDP. For example, in 2012 it represented over 20% of the total GDP.

The illegal foreign boats are taking advantage of Somalia’s instability, hauling in three times more than Somali fishermen, an estimated 132,000 metric tons of fish each year compared to Somalia’s catch of 40,000 metric tons. Foreign industrial fishing boats have resulted in a huge depleted stock, loss of income for Somalis, and violence against local fishers.

The international Naval forces guarding commercial ships from piracy in this vital global trading route – the gateway in and out of the Suez Canal have mainly turned a blind eye to the problem of illegal fishing in Somali waters, and the international community has never had a strong interest in curtailing the foreign fishing trawlers which depleted Somalia’s fish stock and destroyed the livelihoods of many communities.

A fraction of the money spent on the multinational coalition naval task force patrolling Somali Waters to protect commercial ships from pirates could have been used to rebuild the Somali Navy into a stronger naval force capable of curbing illegal fishing piracy, protecting its coastline and effectively tackle the problem of piracy.

A United Nations report and several news sources have suggested that the piracy off the coast of Somalia was caused in part by illegal fishing by foreign boats taking advantage of the war, which resulted in lost fishing income to local communities. According to the DIW and the US House Armed Services Committee, the dumping of toxic waste in Somali waters by foreign vessels also severely constrained the ability of local fishermen to earn a living.

Is this the time to stop ignoring the root causes of piracy, the communities destroyed by the transnational illegal fishing, the dumping of toxic waste in Somali waters by foreign vessels in a nation recovering from decades of lawlessness and to redefine Piracy – the robbery or illegal violence at sea?

By Abdirashid Salah

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