As illegal fishing spikes, report warns of risks of Somali piracy returning

Illegal fishing in Somali waters, a key spur to piracy growth in the region, has leapt of late and could force out-of-work fishermen back to target commercial ships again, a new report claims.

Illegal foreign fishing is now worth $306m a year in Somalia, a nation with Africa’s second longest coastline after Madagascar.

Secure Fisheries, a Colorado-based programme of the One Earth Future Foundation, warns that growing local resentment could see piracy, which became an epidemic for a decade from 2002, return.

“There is a real danger of the whole piracy cycle starting all over again,” John Steed, Secure Fisheries’ regional manager, said in a statement. “Illegal fishing was the pretext used by criminal gangs to shift from protectionism to armed robbery and piracy. Now the situation is back where it was.”

The number of foreign fleets fishing illegally in the region has increased 20 times since 1981, and they’re extracting so much that fish stocks are depleting rapidly, according to the report. Annual catches of 132,000 metric tons by unregistered or illegal foreign boats are more than three times the 40,000 tons caught by local fishermen.

“The Somali government currently lacks infrastructure to monitor, police, and protect its maritime domain and foreign vessels are taking full advantage,” Secure Fisheries said.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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