Somalia: one piracy loses ground while the other gains momentum

Somali people argue that rather than anything else illegal fishing and dumping toxic waste into Somalia’s seas are the root causes of piracy. Yet regardless of the originality and authenticity of this claim, piracy remains an international phenomenon discussed at global meetings. In relation to piracy, there is both good news and bad news for Somalia. The good news is that the number of pirate attacks in the Somalia seas has substantially diminished in this year and the last quarter of previous year. So Somali pirates seem to be defeated. And the bad news is that there is still another untold story about a new type of piracy (which is illegal fishing) where foreign vessels are sucking away Somalia’s natural resources. These foreign vessels have lost 6 billion dollars since the outbreak of piracy according to maritime sources.

Since the anti-piracy maneuvers undertaken by NATO forces were commenced, the piracy rate has diminished sharply, as it was mentioned in last year’s report of International Maritime Bureau. Notably, not only NATO forces, local people (through their own methods and motivation) are also fighting against pirates.

Puntland, the semi-autonomous region in north-eastern Somalia has been declared a piracy free area. A meeting between Puntland government representatives and NATO members held on a NATO owned warship in the region on 3rd March 2012 in which Puntland government announced that pirates were cleared from Puntland, particularly the Piracy haven “Gara’ad” district in Mudug Region. NATO forces asserted if Puntland guarantees the claim that no more piracy would be there in the future, then they will let the world know about that.

European Naval Forces are also involved in anti-piracy campaigns. Their latest reports indicate a sharp decline of piracy attacks and piracy attempts since 2011. In fact, there were just 12 attempted pirate attacks in November 2011, compared to 35 in the previous year. Another report by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) states that the number of crew members taken hostage lessened, from 1,181 in 2010 to 802 in 2011. It would be a unanimous victory if piracy in Somalia is eliminated and it is good for the local people who are economically and socially disturbed.

Nevertheless we have never discussed about another angle of the story. Is there another type of piracy in Somalia? Yes, as the Somali Prime Minister Abdiwali Mohamed Ali underlined at the International London Conference on Somalia (held earlier this year on 23rd February 2012) that there is another category of less known piracy in Somalia; those who are always plundering the rich resources of Somalia; those fishing illegally in Somalia’s water. In his press conference jointly held with Prime Minister of UK David Cameron, United Nations Secretary Ban Ki Moon and African Union Chairman Jean Bing, the Somali premier requested the international community to take urgent action in order to preserve Somalia’s neglected coastline.

Since Somalia is a failed state, its wealthy resources have been burgled by foreign trawlers. As Peter Lehr, expert of Somali Piracy at University of St. Andrews estimated, fish worth $ 300 million was taken each year from Somali Sea through illegal fishing by foreign entities. The most prominent are tuna, shrimp, and lobster.

Illegal fishing and taking precious seafood by international trawlers are very common activities in the unprotected coastal areas of Somalia. A UN report says that a number of trawlers elusively function in Somalia’s coastal areas; countries whose trawlers are pilfering resources include South Korea, Japan, Spain and others.

Mohamed Abshir Waldo, a senior journalist and consultant based in Kenya said in an interview (with ‘Democracy now’ a daily independent news programme) that illegal fishing was a widespread action involving some wealthy countries in Europe, such as France, the UK, Greece and Norway. Other countries include Russia, Taiwan Philippines, and China.

There are laws against illegal fishing and preserving sea resources, but for the last 20 years these law are being violated and ignored by foreign vessels that exterminate the roots of the resources beneath the sea.

Somalia was not included in the international and regional conferences on illegal fishery. There was an important program called ‘stop illegal fishery’ in which 12 African countries (namely Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, and Togo) participated in 2010. Somalia was not a part of that and has also been neglected in many other important regional meetings regarding coastal preservation.

We know that in principle no country in the world is able to take $1 worth resource away from other country without the latter’s permission.

Why is it not the same for Somalia?

Abdulkadir A. Osman is a freelance journalist and writer in Karachi, Pakistan


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Filed under Illegal Fishing, Piracy, Somalia

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